NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — A local dance group continues the traditions of different countries of the Latin American diaspora all while helping young dancers learn about their heritage.

“The name of my group is NOHA. So that’s an acronym for New Orleans Hispano America Dance. We’ve been around for a bit. Probably about 12 years or so. And it’s all different kinds of young people, young adults within the Latin community, and they all hail from different parts of their countries, whether it be Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador. So it’s a mixture of students and they’ve never really known about their heritage. So the group gives them like a little bit of home for them. And also they tend to learn about themselves to and their roots.”

“Ours was the first of its kind at the time, and it became even more I felt that it became even more important even after Katrina, because it just banded everybody a little bit together. And I always thought that the arts, it’s something to be shared and it’s something to come. And it’s also a great space for for the youth. And it I mean, they have so much energy and they’re just so eager to just learn and so through giving them because even the dances, the costumes, there’s history behind it. And so while I’m teaching them how to dance, they’re also learning the history behind it because each dance has a story to tell.”

Belinda Avila, New Orleans Hispano America Dance

Avila says that the group first started in 2006 as a small gathering in the Latino community but through the years grew to include young adults from Mexico, Nicaragua and Colombia.

The group performs what is called “folkloric,” which is described as a mixture of creole, indigenous roots and colonial influence.

“I began to learn Honduran folklore first in a local pageant with Luis Mejia who was a teacher from Honduras. Folklore came easily to me since it turned out my mom had also been a dancer in her early years at the school called Instituto Central “Vicente Caceres” in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, said Avila.

The New Orleans Hispano America Dance group will perform at the Celebracion Latina at the Audubon Zoo on Sept. 24. You can find more information on the group’s Facebook page.

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