Early on my parents enrolled my older sister and I in dance class. They could have enrolled us in ballet, jazz, or tap but they chose to put us in Folklorico. I remember I must have been around 6 or 7 when I had my first class. I had my red practice skirt, my black shoes and hair up in a bun. We rehearsed in an old building near the border a few times a week. What stands out the most about my years with my first instructor was that she took the time to pull out a portable blackboard and map to teach us about the different regions in Mexico. She wouldn’t just show us dance steps, she made sure we knew the history behind each dance and costume.
My sister and I went through a few Folklorico groups as we grew older and soon my younger sister and brother were also taking classes. My parents were always involved, attending our performances, participating in fundraisers, traveling with the groups, cheering us on during parades, etc. We decided to leave Folklorico all together when we started middle school and high school. I started training in ballet and jazz in high school planning on becoming a dance major in college. I eventually went back to Folklorico in my late teens because I missed it more than I thought I would. I joined Ballet Folklorico Paso del Norte under the direction of Rodolfo Hernandez. This group was well known around the city, had older members and the instructor “Profe” was the most challenging instructor I had taken classes with.
I credit my parents for enrolling us at a young age to learn the dance of our culture, to have an appreciation for it and for its music. I listened to Mariachi music every day of my life during those years. I loved the feeling of getting ready backstage – wearing the beautiful dresses, head pieces, putting on the stage make-up and constantly feeling my feet move under me as I waited to go on stage. It was exhilarating. I was constantly tapping my feet whether it was at home in the kitchen, at the grocery store, or in the halls at school….I was always moving. My love of performing started at a young age and began with this beautiful theatrical artful dance. The discipline and artistic bar that was raised by joining Ballet Folklorico Paso del Norte increased my confidence in everything I did. Eventually I would end up writing a profile about it for Hispanic Magazine.
Although my goal was to become a professional dancer, I was extremely lucky to go down that path for a few years. I left home at 19, became a performer at Walt Disney World, choreographed the Miss Latina USA Pageant, worked with one of the most famous boy bands to come out of Orlando, performed at Universal Studios and soon began working in other areas of entertainment. I moved to Las Vegas in 2006 and became an event manager for a film festival planning red carpet movie premieres, planned events at a Hollywood icon’s home, and coordinated logistics for several celebrities during televised events. I moved back to Orlando in 2009, continuing my career as an event manager and eventually moving in to network television production. Through all this, my closest friends have always been Mariachi musicians and Folklorico dancers. I truly believe my deep appreciation of Mexican tradition and culture began with dance and will continue on through this blog. Being a part of Paso Del Norte created some of the most precious memories for me. Not only did it give me a sense of purpose and help develop my artistic vision, it really kept me out of trouble. While others were going to parties and crossing the border every weekend, I was performing at events, weddings, and quinceañeras. While others were hanging out after school, I was rushing home to grab my practice skirt and head off to dance class.
As of now, if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you will see that my life is still surrounded by the beautiful music of Mexico because my other half is a professional Mariachi. I take our daughter to see his shows or play videos of the Mariachi performing and her little feet start moving to the music. It’s only a matter of time before I start teaching her the steps I learned when I was a little girl. Even now, years later, when I hear El Son de La Negra played I can still remember all of my Profe’s choreography and perform the entire dance in my head. I may speak Spanish with a heavy English accent but I can still dance a mean Zapateado!
photos courtesy of Ballet Folklorico Paso Del Norte Facebook
This video is Mariachi Cobre and Ballet Folklorico Paso Del Norte – My past and my present all together on one stage.