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Arepa Coalition Project

Presented by
El Barrio's Art Space
Caracas Arepa Bar &
D10 Project

The arepa takes center stage, the piece weaves dance with contemporary tunes and non-linear theatrical vignettes to tell stories revolving around the preparation of the arepa and exploring at the same time, experiences of life, work, and love from Venezuelan and Colombian communities.

* (in Spanish/ la pieza es en Español)

Arepa Coalition Project

Who’s Who Making the Arepas

Scenes are vignettes reflecting the life and every day dynamics in a big Hacienda (big farm in Venezuela).  Since this is a dance-theatrical performance, the following breakdown will make it easier to follow the scenes.


Opening scene: Tonada - While the music plays women come to the stage, they are part of hacienda staff; they are young and playful. Martha is in charge of coordinating their tasks and duties. 

Martha: Girls what is this mess!! Rosario are you crazy??!!  … What did I tell you last night? What are you doing? Don't you know what "underwear" is? What's inside, "interior," private... you don't play with that!

Rosario runs off with clothes, playing in a very crazy way with the other women. Martha is chasing after them and tries to control the “situation”. Martha: Shameless... lack of respect! Wait until your mother arrives, I'll tell her...


Scene 2: Arepita - Arepita is a lullaby that many Venezuelan and Colombian mothers used to sing to their children. Magaly and Elena come to stage playing and singing “arepita”, while reflecting on immigration issues and memories.


Scene 3: El Emigrante - The scene is full of memories for Magaly, Elena and Martha (they remember those men who leave the country to move to another one, not necessary their husbands/lovers, maybe their sons, their brothers). 


Scene 4: La Fe - Magaly and Elena go to a church. While they are praying, they start talking about arepas, food, and the different meanings of arepa; until the big question: “where is the arepa from?” comes into the conversation. The conversation turns into a little discussion / argument about the origins of the arepa … is the arepa from Venezuela or is the arepa from Colombia? (this issue has been a kind of “silent war” between the two countries, each one claiming to be the birth of place of the arepa. While this scene runs, the “virgin’ comes alive and surprises because the discussion between the Venezuelan woman and Colombian woman.



Scene 5: El Trabajo - El Pilon - This scene recreates a tradition; Women singing verses depicting their wants and concerns while at hard work preparing arepas. The traditional song became very popular in Venezuela.



Scene 6: A comer - Magaly and Elena have finished their work and reflect on the arepa, memories and the meaning for each one. Dancers come to the stage to celebrate. Martha comes out to announce the arepas are ready and invites everybody to enjoy them.

Laura Petit/ Actress & Singer born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela, is an actress, educator, and journalist with a passion for the performing arts. Her journey in the theatrical world began in Teatro Juvenil de Venezuela. Simultaneously, Laura achieved academic excellence, holding both a bachelor and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Zulia. Her pursuit of artistic excellence led her to earn a coveted artistic residency from UNESCO at the renowned Center of Theater of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro, where she received training under the guidance of the legendary Augusto Boal.

 In Venezuela, she performed with companies such as Actores de la Ciudad, Tentempié Danza Teatro, Acción Creativa, and the Compania Nacional de Teatro. In New York City, she has showcased her talent at the Instituto Cervantes, ¡OYE! Avant-Garde Night at Jack Theater Brooklyn, the Hispanic/Latino Book Fair,

among others. As a member of the Amnesia Wars Company, she has participated in productions at Prime Produce and Figment Festival.


Nataly Barco / Actress & Singer she holds a Master's degree from Pontifical Javeriana University (Colombia). Her creative processes span across film, theater, music, and dance, and while her essence lies in my voice as a singer, really she is a versatile performer. She won first place in festivals and competitions such as Festival Nadia, Javeriana Canta 2015, Toma mi voz Festival 2022, Golden Voices Festival, and ASCUN Culture National University Song Festival.  As a soloist, She had participated in Colombian music festivals like Hato Viejo Cotrafa Festival, "National Colombian Pasillo Festival, National Cuyabtito de Oro Festival, Belén de Umbría National Song Festival, and Mono Nuñez Andean Music Festival.  Additionally, She has been involved in theater projects, including Las Mujeres de Lorca for two seasons at Julio Mario Santo Domingo Theater and Teatro Colón, The Addams Family Musical, The Wild Party, Little Shop of Horrors Musical, The Man of Roses, Year One, The King David Musical, and Steps (Short Film). This is her first experience with Dance 10 Project and she is very excited.  Her creative processes span across film, theater, music, and dance, and while her essence lies in my voice as a singer, really she is a versatile performer. Artist’s statement: “my mission is to contribute to cultural and humanitarian development, which is why I have a keen interest in the social work sector, utilizing art as a tool for transformation.”

Laura Bolivar / Comedian & Actress born in Chaguaramas, Guárico State. In 2006, she began studying Social Communication at the Bicentenaria de Aragua University, concurrently pursuing acting at the Simón Garcia School of Performing Arts, both in Maracay, Aragua State. At 21, she was already internship at Venevision (Caracas) in the Digital Media department and was on track to earn her degree in Social Communication with a focus on Journalism in 2011.

Caracas was her home for the next four years, where she earned a degree in Broadcasting from the Central University of Venezuela. She worked at Venevision while also growing as an actress in various theater productions under the guidance of José Luis Useche, Javier Vidal, and Francis Romero. She performed in numerous theaters, including "Teatro Ateneo de Caracas," "Teatrex," and "Teatro Santa Fe," appearing in plays like "Vuelo 728," "Corazon de Zapatero," and "A Salvar la Navidad," among others. In 2015, she traveled to New York with the intention of learning English and acting. She began studying Stand Up comedy in English at Gotham Comedy Club in 2016, and since then, she has performed at Broadway Comedy Club, Gotham Comedy Club, Greenwich Village Comedy Club, and New York Comedy Club. In 2018, she participated in a Comedy Festival that premiered on Amazon Prime. The same year, she was part of the Monologando Ando festival with a monologue written and directed by Marcos Purroy titled "900 Pánico." In New York, she has been a special guest on shows for Venezuelan comedians like Honorio Torrealba, David Comedia, Laureano Márquez, La Vero Gomez, Alejandra Otero, Nanutria, among others. Currently, she produces videos in both English and Spanish for her Instagram and TikTok accounts @SoyLauraBolivar, amassing nearly 70K followers between both accounts. She has also participated twice in the New York Comedy Festival. In late 2021, she started producing her own comedy show in Spanish called "The Bochinche" at the Broadway Comedy Club, featuring the best local comedians as special guests.

Leigh Atwell/Dancer graduated from the University of California, Irvine, where she was a member of Donald McKayle's international touring company, Etude Ensemble. Since moving to New York City she has performed with various choreographers including Wendy Osserman, Jennifer Archibald, Same As Sister, and has been a member of Julieta Valero’s RASTRO Dance Company since 2004.  Outside of modern dance Ms. Atwell is a mother of two boys, an avid salsa dancer, and owner/creator of EvieOlu Jewelry. 


Jonathan Colafrancesco / Dancer is an Italian dance artist currently based in New York. He has danced in productions of Italian and international choreographers like Enzo Celli, Elisabetta Minutoli, Dario Lupinacci, Roberta Ferrara, Francesco Asselta, Samuel Pott, Vivake Khamsingsavath. Jonathan is currently a dancer for Dance 10 Project, WHITE WAVE, Pony Box Dance Theatre, Xiang Xu Dance, LaneCo Arts, Tabula Rasa Dance Theatre, Project Tag, Spark Movement Collective, Sandsilk Dance, and Terre Dance Collective. He graduated from the Certificate Program at Peridance in NYC. He moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2017 to study with contemporary choreographers from companies such as Chunky Move and Lucy Guerin inc. He has also danced in works by Rena Butler, Roya Carrera, Caleb Teicher, Assaf Salhov, Igal Perry, Isabele Rosso, Tsai-Hsi Hung, Yoshito Sakuraba and Norbert De La Cruz III. He's a co-founder of KROMA mvnt in NY. His choreography has been presented at Peridance Certificate Program's showcase (KNJ theatre), Kodafe 2021, Mark De Garmo festival, 7MPR and Current Showcase take.7. He has recently been commissioned for choreographing on Terre Dance Collective and Spark Movement Collective’s dancers.

Cynthia Cortes/ Dancer & Graphic Designer

Cynthia started her training in Classical Ballet in 1981 with the Franklin School of Ballet in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1989, she was awarded a scholarship from the Phoenix School of Ballet in Arizona. She began her studies in Contemporary Dance at the Danzahoy School of Dance in Caracas, Venezuela, where she was later  invited to perform with the company. In 1997,  Cynthia moved to New York City to continue her studies with Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Dance Space Inc. & Movement Research and has had the opportunity to work with several independent choreographers. She has enjoyed working with Julieta Valero since RASTRO's inception in 1997.

Alessia Secli / Dancer & Singer is an Italian performer and choreographer based in New York City. After finishing her training in Milan, Italy.  Alessia moved to New York City in order to pursue her dream to work professionally in the performing arts. Alessia starred in the role of Clarisse in the show 5 Paths to Uptown Stories directed by Elliott Ortiz. Alessia was also recently associate choreographer in the musical Xanadu at The Heights player in Brooklyn. Theatre credits include: Hair, Pippin, A chorus line, Evelyn Evelyn, The Taming of Kate, Someone in the crowd and Yes!

Julieta Valero / Guest Choreographer & Dancer is a Venezuelan dancer and choreographer, Director of Rastro Dance Company. She began her studies in 1980 Danzahoy-Escuela, becoming a member of the company in 1989, participating in national and international tours to Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Spain, Israel, Canada, England, among others. In 1996 she moved to New York and two years later produced the show, "Andar el comienzo" which marks the birth of Rastro. Julieta has been an artist in residency at D'jerassi artists program, California 2003, which then distinguished her with the Bessie Schoenberg Memorial Fellowship 2003. Julieta also participated in the artistic residence Artward Bound in White Oak Plantation in Florida, as a member of The Field in 2007. Between 2000 and 2006 Julieta continued to collaborate with Danzahoy as part of the cast on tour of the piece "Exodo", including the BIENNALE DE LA DANSE 2002 TERRA LATINA, and their season at the Joyce Theater in New York, 2006. With Rastro, in its 25 years, she has created 17 choreographies and produce works of established and emerging choreographers. The company has performed in a variety of theaters and festivals in NYC and international including three seasons at the Joyce SoHo, twice in the NuDance Festival in the frame of Riverside Festival, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, England; Avant Garde Festival, Yucatan, Mexico; Breaking Lines Dance Festival, New York at the Abrons Arts Center; Dance Theater Workshop, with The Field residency, FARspace NYC; CPR - Center for the Performance Research, New York, among others. Julieta has collaborated in several occasions with Tumàka't danza contemporanea, Merida, Yucatan. In 2016, was invited to perform at the DanzaExtrema Festival Internacional in San Andrés de Tuxtla, Veracruz MX, where she premiered “Pain, nothing new” and was honored for her artistic trajectory by the festival's director, Alonso Alarcon. In 2017 the company performed at the Theater for the New City and Dixon Place. More recently Julieta has presented work at Judson Church, Triskelion Arts, and Brooklyn as the first artist in residency. In 2022, Julieta participated in Spanish Harlem Dance Fest, with her company and her dance piece: Remedy (in collaboration with Leigh Atwell) and they won a L.A.T.A. (Latin Alternative Theater Award) as Outstanding Choreography. This is her first crossed collaboration with Elliott Ortiz

Lupe Gehrenbeck / Texts & Script: She is an awarded playwright, director, actress and writer. Her work has been produced and performed in theaters across Latin America, Europe, and the United States. She’s part of the Director’s Unit (Estelle Parsons) and the Playwrights Directos Workshop at the Actors Studio. Since 2017 Lupe is member of the PDW (Playwrights Directors Workshop) of the Actors Studio in New York; she is also vice president of the Actors’ Gymnasium; and also, she is the founder of the Teatro de La Comarca, and the Teatro Sin Fronteras. She is the winner of the 1989 Juana Sujo National Award; the Teatro Autor Exprés Award, from the SGAE (General Society of Authors and Publishers of Spain) 2016; Short and Sweet Hollywood Audience Award 2018;1 and in 2020 she is nominated for the Gilder/Coigney International Theater Award given by the League of Professional Theater Women. Lupe Gehrenbeck, one of the most representative authors of the contemporary Venezuelan theater. Her theater delves into the everyday, into all that is apparently unimportant, to reveal what lies behind it, the depth that constitutes us. She writes from her perspective as a happy woman to be a woman, and with the humor and eloquence from the Caribbean.

Elliott Ortiz/ Director & Producer an American-Venezuelan dancer and choreographer, boasts formal education in Theater Production Administration and extensive training in ballet, jazz, modern dance, and acting. His unique artistic approach, coined as "dramaturgy in dance," where movement and narrative seamlessly intertwine; evoking a poetic dimension of Hispanic dramatism; showing a harsh world in harsh aesthetic with a sense of reconciliation.

He got attention from critics with his piece Future Imperfect (2005) for D.T.W. (Dance Theater Workshop) in NYC, a dance piece that explored themes of cultural identities, exaggerated control by government, and the contradiction between the idea of "home" and patria / patriotic.

In 2007, Elliott collaborated with Wonder Moments Inc. and curated MEDLAM-NY (Movimiento Escénico de las Americas), an enthralling performing arts festival that left a mark in 2007 and 2009. In 2015, he premiered Everything Around Us in Quebec, Canada, showcasing glimpses of the performance at local festivals in NYC between 2015 and 2016. In 2017, he spearheaded the production of Untimely Movements, a captivating dance festival featuring artists from El Barrio Artspace. Elliott created A Dark Wind with Female Name (2018), a deeply emotive call for climate action, for La Patria Resiste & B.I.P Productions. In 2019, he reimagined Everything Around US with an upgraded cast and crew, while simultaneously taking on the role of co-producer for Domingo Loco (a monthly tango event in East Harlem). In 2021 his piece: 5 Paths to Uptown Stories drives emotional universes mirroring urban life in a post-pandemic stage, it won 3 L.A.T.A. Then, in 2022 he founded Spanish Harlem Dance Fest and in 2023 he created Arepa Coalition Project a vibrant and visually captivating piece, with a stunning collaboration by choreographer Julieta Valero and playwright Lupe Gherenbeck.



Creative Team:

Choreography: Julieta Valero in collaboration with Leigh Atwell

Texts: Lupe Gherenbeck

Concept, Artistic Direction and General Producer: Elliott Ortiz

Crew Members: 

Costume Curator: Mariela Monroy

MUA & Hair / Costumes: Percy Van Oordt

Stage Manager: Jorge Tagliaferro

Sound Designer: Oswaldo Ortiz / Sound Tech: Kim Sanchez

Lights / Set: John McGee

Arepas Cortesy: Caracas Arepa Bar / Maribel Araujo


Production Team:

Cast Director: Angelica Guvernez

Singing Coach: Esteban Cordero

Director Assistant: Luis Viñoles

Press Coordinator: Hernan Colmenares

Social Media Manager: Michelle Acevedo

Set Construction: Miguel Rivera & John McGee

Artistic Images/ Designer: Omar Montilla

Photographers: John McGee, Frances Velasquez, Jonny Rueda, Andreina Mujica, 

Production Manager: Pilar Cordova

Media Sponsors:

Arepa Coalition Project is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, a regrant program supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership

with the City Council, also with private funds from Howard Gilman Foundation both administered by LMCC (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council








With the support:


Nuestro más sincero agradecimiento a:


Magdalis Geronimo (Bohemia y más) , Jose Orellana (Click Magazine), Hernan Colmenares, Ximena Montilla (Historias de la arepa), Ricardo Estrada (arepologo), Rhina Valentin (La reina del barrio), Omar Montilla, Karmina Fonseca (La Noticia), Artspace Projects Inc, Pilar Cordova, Jonny Rueda, Andreina Mujica, Cesar Miguel Rondon, Globovision (Venezuela),  Artout News (Argentina), La Oferta Newspaper (San Diego -CA), Lucy Santiago & Robert (De la mano con Lucy), Hector Luis Rivera (Héctor Luis Sin Censura), Gustavo Fernandez, Maribel Araujo, Rolinda Ramos (El Barrio's Artspace), 

Arepa Coalition Project Team


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