Friday, April 20, 2007

ballet folklorico

When we were down visiting J's parents, it happened that the ballet folklorico from Centro Escolar Benemerito de las Americas performed in their city. The Benemerito is a private boarding school in Mexico City owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I had heard they put on a good show, but wow! It was incredible.
The show was about two hours and there were 75 dancers, ages 16-18. They performed folk dances from many different regions of Mexico. My camera battery died (drat!) so I only got a couple of photos at the beginning of the show. These costumes, if I remember right, are from Veracruz, home of "La Bamba." The girls must have had about a dozen costume changes at least! The dresses were gorgeous, but that wasn't even the most impressive thing about the show. Three things struck me as I watched these dancers: the amazing energy level they maintained throughout the entire two hours, the precision with which they danced, and the obvious enjoyment they derived from performing. I was completely entranced and I didn't want them to stop! I later learned that the Benemerito probably has less than 500 students grades 9-12, so those dancers in 11th and 12th grades may represent nearly half of the students in those grades. Think about that. A few of those young people probably have natural ability for dance, but the majority just practice and practice until they make it look that good. Some of those steps are pretty complicated. This was a free show, but I definitely would have paid to see it and thought it money well spent. It was professional quality. Frankly, I thought it was better than Living Legends, the BYU group that tours the world performing Latin American, Native American, and Polynesian folk dances.
I was so pleased that my children got to see this beautiful art form from their heritage. I wish more hispanic children in the United States had the opportunity to perform Latin folk dances. It is truly something to take great pride in. To me these dances embody everything that is positive in the culture. The women's dances are very feminine and the men's very masculine. I love the sassy, flirtatious dances. In fact, some of the dances were almost sexy. One of the dances essentially amounted to one long shoulder shimmy for the girls. It did not cross the line to distasteful because the puffy shirts with heavy, beaded necklaces the girls were wearing provided modesty. But I thought to myself, "How fun must that be for a sixteen year old girl?" The boys must have had an equally good time with their stomping, vigorous, machete-wielding dances, alternating with the courtlier, gentle ones.
Lidia loved it as much as I did. Bernie would have too, but it was late and she fell asleep. Marcus kept trying to leave, until they did the Aztec dance, and then he was mesmerized by the fire. Georgie admitted it was better than she thought it was going to be.


Montserrat said...

You are so fortunate to have seen that! I LOVE to see native dances from other cultures but especially the Latin dances.

My parents, when they were teenagers in Salt Lake, danced with a group called the Lucero Folklorico (their ward was the Lucero Ward). The pictures they have all dressed up in their costumes are absolutely stunning. The best part is knowing my grandmother helped to sew them. When I was little and we lived in Salt Lake I started taking Latin Dance lessons and they were available later when we moved to Miami, FL but the money to pay for them was not. :C

sippinghotchocolate said...

my sister and i took latin american dancing and ballroom dancing when i was at highschool. my sister went on to enter the grand pacific comps and did very well. my mother always wanted us to do that rather than maori culture but i like both. i can just imagine watching the program and getting excited as you about the dances.

Calandria said...

Montse, I remember the photos you put up of your parents, but I didn't know that you took Latin dance lessons too. Was it folklorico or more ballroom style?

Athena, didn't your mom also belong to a maori folk dance group? And I didn't know that you took dance either. Cool! I know that your high school was similar to Benemerito. Did they also have a touring dance group?

Montserrat said...

I think it was more folklorico. I was 4 or 5 at the time.

sippinghotchocolate said...

yes, my mother performed in a maori culture group and at one time toured the states and some of the islands in the pacific.

i didn't know there was a school like the one i attended. i knew of the one in fiji. the school i attended is coming to a close though.