top of page
  • Axel G. Acevedo Crespo

Dancing In The Face of Adversity With Colombian Dancer and Author María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Dance – the art form that can be more readily appreciated on a daily basis, by everyone. My challenge to you: what more is there to moving your body to the rhythm of life? Dancing embodies so much more than mere movement. It is an expression of the soul! Oh, yes. Someone's body language can tell us more than just a story from the whim of the artist; but from the roots of the artist's core comes their history, culture, personal struggles, and triumphs.

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera author of A Través de Mis Ojos, CEO of Evolution DEI, and founder and director of the Colombian dance troup Huellas de Colombia.

We move our bodies every day within our homes, jobs, schools; with friends, family, and while we are alone. Expressing ourselves, who we are, where we are from, with every step we take. Believe it or not, even the most original grooves come from the past, trickling through the movements of others over time and space. As we continue to move forward into the future, the past travels with us... there is no letting go, so let us embrace it and make it ours.

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera is someone that has much to say. She has been dancing for many years, from Colombia to the United States, and around the many personalities within her family and friends, near and far. Being born in Bogotá, Colombia her early years were a personal challenge, as it would be for any young person trying to find their place on stage amongst seven siblings, including a twin. She was born legally blind to a family who had scarce resources and did not learn of María's blindness until she was 10 years old.


“When I was a child I remember I was moved intrinsically by any kind of music, every time I heard it.”

She had learned to love dancing before she knew her blindness had a label. Maestro Rene Devia was one of her earliest influences of Joropo style music, dance, and poetry – whom she unbelievably had the opportunity to meet in person as an adult in Orlando, Florida.


However, it was the techniques she learned from dance classes that sparked her interest in folkloric dancing. She arrived in the United States as a refugee and waited two and a half years for her husband to make the journey. Her twin sister eventually arrived as well, though the rest of her family remains in Colombia.

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera author of A Través de Mis Ojos, CEO of Evolution DEI, and founder and director of the Colombian dance troup Huellas de Colombia.

As a student at Valencia College, she was approached by a musician, for the Colombian Student Association at the University of Central Florida, in need of a choreographer. Eagerly she agreed and later joined the organization upon enrolling in the university.


María loves to dance a variety of styles including salsa, with its Spanish origins; but her primary focuses are the regional dances of Colombia: Joropo (from the Oriental Plains, influenced by a combination of the Spanish and Indigenous), Cumbia (from the Atlantic coast, has a trifecta of Spanish, Indigenous and African influences), Currulao (from the Pacific coast), and Bambuco (from the Andean region).


“I love folkloric dances from other cultures, traditions, roots, and heritage [because the dances] tell stories of how our ancestors used to express feelings.” In fact, for the past sixteen years, María has been sharing Colombia's story by learning her culture's history and the movements that best express their past.

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera author of A Través de Mis Ojos, CEO of Evolution DEI, and founder and director of the Colombian dance troup Huellas de Colombia.

In a span of 23 years, María has many achievements and accolades that continue to complement her stride: a B.S. in Psychology; an M.S. in Social Work; and certifications in DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), Inclusive Leadership, and Access to Human Rights from the following establishments: Cornell University, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, and the Organization of American States (OEA).


As we continue to dance through time and space we meet María in the present day where she represents Colombia Nos Une, at the Colombian Chancellery and the Colombian Consulate. She is our attaché to everything Colombian: art, culture, education, health, and the community by coordinating projects that benefit the Colombian community in Central and North Florida – including the introduction of organizations and community partners to the General Consul and Consulate; and our advocate to promote and support local artists and dance groups.

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera author of A Través de Mis Ojos, CEO of Evolution DEI, and founder and director of the Colombian dance troup Huellas de Colombia.

María wants to personally give a shout-out to all the women in the world who are or were broken in some way, but have overcome their difficulty; and to all the artists who work hard... you are her people, so just dance!


It is in her own difficulties that she has become the woman she is today. She had to work that much harder to achieve her success, and not just because of her physical disability. As a foreign person from South America, María has had to claw her way through a number of American biases.

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera author of A Través de Mis Ojos, CEO of Evolution DEI, and founder and director of the Colombian dance troup Huellas de Colombia.

She is the CEO of Evolution DEI where someone can get leadership coaching to best express their diverse abilities; schedule a request for events and presentations; and even enroll to immerse themselves in the ballets of Colombia's folklore through Huellas de Colombia, where María is the director and founder of this school of art. As a true artist, María has surpassed the lines that state Do Not Cross by becoming the author of a book called A Través de Mis Ojos.

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera author of A Través de Mis Ojos, CEO of Evolution DEI, and founder and director of the Colombian dance troup Huellas de Colombia.

In this book, she tells her story of the struggles she's endured growing up, how she's overcome discrimination, and how anyone can make a difference in the lives of others, for better or worse. María tells me of a very real moment between her and her editor: “My editor was asking me while working on the last part of my book. 'Mafe, why not commit suicide? Her response moves me so fervently:


“I responded automatically, 'because I was busy dancing.’”

María Fernanda Saavedra de Vera author of A Través de Mis Ojos, CEO of Evolution DEI, and founder and director of the Colombian dance troup Huellas de Colombia.

Certainly, we all have our story to tell. How we choose to express it is up to us: with words, colors, metals, and stones, or movements and actions. Share your story, your history, your soul, and add it to the library that is humanity. One final thought María wishes to stir in you, “Dance, sing, paint, act, do what your heart and soul bring you joy.”

 

This story is proudly brought to you in partnership with FusionFest. Together, FusionFest and Pedacitos believe in the power of storytelling as a way to celebrate and amplify the diverse voices within our communities. FusionFest is also the name of the incredible two-day multicultural event held in the heart of Downtown Orlando every Thanksgiving weekend.


This FREE event showcases some of the many ways culture can be displayed and shared, including through music, art, food, fashion, and more! Their mission extends beyond this once-a-year event with opportunities for the community to engage and learn through curated cultural events throughout the year.


FusionFest Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the mission to celebrate the people and the many different cultures that make Central Florida awesome by showcasing talents, sharing stories, driving innovation and building community based on respect and understanding. FusionFest is a project of the Orange County Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

186 views0 comments

Commentaires


bottom of page