Going to Ballet Folklórico on Sunday, February 6th was one of the best impulsive decisions I have made this year so far. Tucked away in the third-floor balcony seat on the day of the performance, I didn’t realize that my neck is hurting so much from craning to get better until the show was finished. Awestruck by the musical inspiration that the orchestra provided and dazed by the swirling colorful skirts, I found myself registering for the follow-up seminar event, UMS 101: Ballet Folklórico, held at Cahoots on February 9th.
The event was led by Susan Quintanilla, the founder, and director of El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil. She gave a presentation to deepen the understanding about the performance; ranging from the diversity of dance depending on region, how the dance is a fusion of different cultures and demonstration of stage costumes used in the performance. Up close, the costumes were more colorful and detailed than what I expected when I was seeing the performance. Those layers of laces in skirts! The presentation was accompanied by a band from the same organization consisting of violins, trumpets, a guitarron, a vihuela, and a guitar. Every once in a while, the audience had the pleasure of hearing live music that was mentioned in the presentation. Perhaps the instrument that caught the audience’s attention the most was the guitarron-a gigantic guitar with a convex body that makes woody, deep sounds. It plays a similar role to drum and bass in a rock band setting, although it had the gorgeous and humorous sound that only a wooden string instrument could make.
The scholastic, appreciative atmosphere of the program changed 360 degrees when Ms. Quintanilla invited everyone to learn a few dance moves from the ballet. We learned four or five dance moves and danced under Ms. Quintanilla’s instruction as the band played along. I enjoyed myself highly, although I was glad that the conference room wasn’t surrounded by mirrors as God had not granted me the talent in dancing. The opportunity to dance to great live music was a rare one, so I was highly honored that I could fumble and skip to the gorgeous sound of the band. Even though the audience consisted of people of different ages, all the people seem to be enjoying themselves a lot as they skipped, turned, and explored dance moves. Later, the session ended with a gorgeous singalong lead by the band and free and open questions and answers.
The questions were usually focused on the magical experience that the majority of the audience had experienced in the performance. We learned the secret of how the dancers could change so quickly, that the band follows the dance rather than vice versa, which is very unique, and other backstage stories that only people who have experience of performing dance could have. I couldn’t resist the urge to ask whether the shoes that make the merry ‘clink’ sounds are heavy or not and got a very sincere reply from the performers themselves that it wasn’t heavy at all.
Of course, I became to love the performance even more after learning more about it. Our little dance experience, the awe of listening to the harmony of the band once again, the experience of liveliness, all of it was great but to summarize what I really loved about this special experience in one sentence: I loved that the performance in itself is a celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The ballet included diverse traditional dances from different regions of Mexico. Moreover, the conversion is not limited to the inside of Mexican borders-we watched a German dance performance the band demonstrated a piece of Mexican dance music influenced by music from the video. I’m pretty sure that anyone from any cultural background would find something to love in ballet Folklórico. Next time, if the team hit the town again, please invest an afternoon on it- you’ll have the impulsion, like me, to drive to Flint, the location of the headquarter of the company, to see more of the colorful wonders.
*The Featured image is the promotion image of the dance company that ran the workshop, not the image of the event