Dance performances

NHCC will host live music and dance performances celebrating Carnival

Carnival celebrations include colorful costumes. (Courtesy of Frank Leto)

Frank and Pilar Leto have worked tirelessly for over 15 years to bring Carnival to Albuquerque.

The holiday season, which takes place before Lent in Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as parts of the United States, is one of the biggest celebrations in the world.

The Letos perform “Carnival 2022: Queenie, Queen of Carnival” at the National Hispanic Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 25 and Saturday, February 26.

“Last year Carnival was canceled and we’ve been working on this show for months,” says organizer Frank Leto. “We have been working on the choreography since September. We’re trying to put on the show, but the COVID numbers keep dropping and we feel a little safer.

Frank and Pilar Leto are the masterminds behind
Albuquerque Carnival celebrations. (Courtesy of Frank Leto)

Carnival was first celebrated at the NHCC in 2002 and has been a regular part of its programming since 2006.

As in previous years, there will be performances by Frank Leto & PANdemonium, which includes local musicians César Bauvallet, Kanoa Kaluhiwa, John Bartlit, Howard Cloud, Steve Figueroa, Bo Razon, Tomas White and Frank Leto.

The performance also includes the Odara Dance Ensemble with Evelyn Linzy, Victoria Gutierrez, Darrin Visarrga, Amina Dunn, Sabrina Carabajal and Pilar Leto.

Each year has a theme and Frank Leto says this year’s is based on the children’s book of the same name he wrote during the pandemic.

His 6-year-old granddaughter Chloe illustrated the book, which follows a little girl named Queenie as she learns how carnival is celebrated in a handful of places.

As the book is read to Queenie on stage, it will also be projected onto the screen for the audience to view, alternating with live music and dancing.

The story will be read to Ameera Pickett by her father, Trey Pickett, a dancer in Albuquerque.

Frank Leto’s original music is based on carnival traditions from Brazil, Trinidad, Cuba and New Orleans.

“This year is really special for me because I’m an early childhood educator and I write for children,” he says. “It brings together the passions I have in my life.”