Ballet Folklorico

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Organization teaches Mexican dance, culture

Since its founding in 1988, Round Rock Ballet Folklorico has had several homes—holding practices in parking lots and garages and under pavilions—but its mission to spread Mexican culture and history through dance has remained the same.

Founder and instructor Yolanda Sanchez began dancing while attending school in Mexico. She was later approached in 1986 to arrange a traditional Mexican dance performance as part of a fundraiser for St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock. Yolanda said after the fundraiser performance, she discovered a number of interested dancers.

“I had two initial members,” Yolanda said. “By the time two months had gone by, we had another six people. [Our growth] came through the community. They wanted to know more about the [dances’] history and background.”

Today, Round Rock Ballet Folklorico includes more than 130 dancers age 4 and older. Many members have been with the group for several years and have parents and children who also dance. Walter Guzman, who first started attending practices with his mother, has participated for more than 15 years.

“We’re like a family,” Guzman said. “When you start out, it’s your mom forcing you to go, but [as you get older]you want to go.”

Ballet Folklorico is a collection of traditional dances from various regions of Mexico that throughout the years has been influenced by French, German, Spanish and other cultures. Dance steps are only part of what the Round Rock group’s members experience. For each routine, dancers also learn where the dance originated and how it contributes to Mexican culture and heritage.

The group also incorporates newer dances to attract a more diverse audience. A performance put on for Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in October included traditional dances as well as a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

“We are a Mexican dance group that does traditional dances, but we wanted our community to understand a dance that is known by all,” Ballet Folklorico member Selicia Sanchez said. “We incorporated ‘Thriller’ into Dia de Los Muertos because [the dance]can be a little scary and Halloween-y. We knew the community would know that dance.”

There are no requirements to join Ballet Folklorico, and dancers of all cultures are welcome. In the future, the group hopes to continue expanding and working with other local nonprofits to make Round Rock the arts capital of Texas.

“It has always been a vision to have a [place]that will house and allow multiple nonprofits to share and utilize each other’s talent and be able to present [their work]to the community as one,” Selicia said. “Our goal is to continue to dance folklorico but also to continue working with other nonprofits.”

3750 Rocking J Road, Ste. B, Round Rock, 512-659-5667, www.roundrockballetfolklorico.org

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