Day of the Dead fills USC Village with song and art

The celebration included dance and music performances by local groups. The dancers wore different outfits, each specific to the regional heritage of their dance. (Gina Nguyen | Daily Trojan)

On a sunny afternoon last Sunday, the typical hub of tables filled with conversation, learning and long lines for food at USC Village was complemented by live music and dance performances.

In anticipation of the annual multi-day celebration that unites the living with the dead, Día de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — attendees of the Celebración del Día de los Muertos with Grupo Folklórico participated in traditional, themed festivities.

Families decorate sugar skulls, symbols of remembrance of deceased loved ones that help revive their spirits. Attendees also participated in other Halloween activities, such as kiddie treats at retailers and costume contests. The celebration involved the greater Los Angeles community, with many families joining the USC students in the festivities.

The afternoon began with live music that featured a local band from Miramonte Elementary School. The group Music Will shared Halloween tunes, filling the USC Village with songs. The performing group consisted of fifth and eighth graders who donned black and white costumes, some even with skulls painted on their faces.

As the strumming of the guitars and basses reverberated, Music Will’s energy permeated the entire outdoor space. Lining the sparkling stage were golden bouquets of marigolds, flowers commonly associated with Día de los Muertos celebrations and symbolizing the fragility of life. Strings of marigolds also decorated the aisles of the surrounding arena of full chairs.

Music Will performed classic songs such as “My Girl” by The Temptations, which had the crowd dancing, along with Halloween-themed tunes.

“When I took music class, I really liked playing guitar, so I found it as a hobby and started playing more often,” said Alyssa Sanchez, a fifth-grader in the band.

The event featured a costume contest along with other activities including painting and treats for the younger children who attended Sunday’s festivities. (Gina Nguyen | Daily Trojan)

This performance is not the band’s first for Día de los Muertos.

“[Music] it can express how you feel and it has different meanings,” fifth-grader Jayel Andrade said.

As the band serenaded the crowd, younger attendees sat at tables next to the performance stage, drawing and enjoying candies collected in cellophane bags and their own lantern gift bags. Children also roamed the space dressed in elaborate and festive Halloween costumes in eager anticipation of the upcoming costume contests.

Following Music Will’s performance, Grupo Folklórico de USC, a Mexican traditional dance group, took the stage to perform dances from multiple regions of Mexico to honor those who have passed. This performance was their main showcase for the fall semester.

“Our group, Grupo Folklórico de USC, kind of wanted to celebrate the day in our own way, which was through dancing,” said Brenda Sampaio, sophomore business administration. “I think the band really did a great way to bring a group of people together to celebrate this.”

The dancers were dressed in different outfits, each specific to the region of their dance. They also incorporated makeup and decorations into their performance.

“I think it was a really great way — as part of the Latino community — to celebrate the day and connect with that part of my culture,” Sampaio said.

Many families decorated sugar skulls, one of the traditional ways people celebrate the holiday, at the event. (Gina Nguyen | Daily Trojan)

As the event progressed, the crowd grew larger and the seats filled as passers-by joined the audience and participated in the lively event. The event concluded with a performance by USC Mariachi.

When the student-led mariachi ensemble entered the stage, they formed a semicircle facing the audience. Together, their instruments, ranging from stringed violins to brass trumpets, gave voice to mariachi music. Instrumental performances were followed by singing, with the ensemble dressed in matching black outfits providing the musical background surrounding the singers.

“I thought it was super cool to be exposed to this music,” said Sanya Verma, a sophomore computer science major who attended the event. “[The mariachi music] it kind of brought the whole place to life. It was really wonderful how they stepped up and did it, because it’s a very brave thing to do.”

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