Frank Guevara, choreographer on the leading edge of hyperdance who championed the rights of Latinos to forgo stereotyped folk dancing for modern forms, has died at the age of 30.
Guevara, born and raised in East Los Angeles, died Sunday of pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Asserting that no venue existed for Latino modern and postmodern dancers, he created Dance Theatre of East L.A. in 1992 and served as its producer, artistic director, choreographer and lead dancer.
"Since my work is dance-theater rooted, if you don't have a passion, you can't do it," Guevara told The Times in 1994. "Obviously technique is there, but my work is rooted in emotion."
Three years before he set up his own dance company, Guevara organized the East L.A. Choreographers' Showcase to provide a stage for Latino modern dancers. Twice rejected in auditions for the Dance Kaleidoscope festival, he felt other groups were ethnically biased. He expressed his feelings in a work he titled "My Mexican Hat Dance."
"It is a protest piece," he said. "This character just wants to dance--to move from emotion. However, he has to do these traditional things for these people because that's what they want to see."
A year after Guevara's dance company began, Times dance critic Lewis Segal wrote of a performance: "Guevara himself remains the most compelling dancer of the group, equally powerful in the heartbreak depicted in 'Soledad' and the punishing floor-slams of the postmodern character portrait 'Cursum Perficio (My Journey Ends Here).' In the latter, he takes the image of a street youth holding a tire and deepens it through unstinting emotional and physical intensity."
The choreographer said the tire represented "the cycle of life."
Guevara began dancing at the age of 5 and gravitated to the Plaza de la Raza arts venue, where he took classes in modern dance, ballet, acting and other disciplines. He also studied at Cal State L.A.
At 17, he got his first television job as a featured dancer in a music video showcase.
"It was quick money and exciting," he said. "So I did a lot of commercial work for a while."
He danced in commercials, industrial shows, exercise videos and motion pictures.
To prepare himself for the newer hyperdance and the macho characters he portrayed, the 145-pound Guevara bulked up to 175 pounds, exercised and lifted weights.