Aztec dance group uses art as activism in the wake of George Floyd's death

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It was a powerful moment for Samuel Torres.

Days after the death of George Floyd, thousands of people gathered outside the Fifth Precinct in Minneapolis for a peaceful protest.

The crowd suddenly fell silent as a drum beat was heard in the distance. People dropped to their knees, as a group of Aztec dancers made their way to the center of the crowd.

Dressed in traditional regalia, the group moved to the beat of the drum and led the crowd in chants.

"You could feel the energy in a very visceral and palpable way," Torres said, who danced alongside his 6-year-old daughter.

Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli has been active during protests and marches around the Twin Cities in the wake of George Floyd's death. Their mission is to bring Aztec culture and tradition to the masses, to help heal a hurting community.

VIDEO: Aztec dance performance during peaceful protest in Minneapolis

"It's to connect with whoever surrounds us, whoever is there, whatever is there," said Sergio Cenoch, who co-founded the group with his wife in 2006. "It's just us going out there in solidarity and showing unity."

Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli marched during the protests over the death of Jamar Clarke and Philando Castile, two other high-profile Minnesota police deaths involving black men.

Cenoch said they routinely do the fire dance, a series of movements intended to create a "spark" in everyone who is watching.

"That's what we hope to do with our dances and our prayers," he said.

Torres, who began dancing with the group a year ago, said the energy in the crowd feels different from past protests.

"There is a lot of raw anger and sadness," he said. "We hope to be able to help steer that energy in a way that we can most effectively organize and mobilize this movement."

Learn more about Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli and the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center here.