Former President John F. Kennedy would be proud of UT Pan American's Ballet Folklórico as they contributed a little to the human spirit and the arts that he so loved. On Sunday, May 27, the dance group performed in one of the nation's busiest arts facilities - The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The dance troupe was in the nation's capital to represent the Ballet, the University, and the Rio Grande Valley at the 2012 National College Dance Festival, held May 24-27, and presented by the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA). UTPA was among 30 schools in the country selected to participate in this national-level event that put a spotlight on the extraordinary choreographies and performances that are developed at U.S. colleges and universities.
In a festival filled with primarily modern dance and ballet performances, the Ballet Folklórico's piece entitled "Estado de Mexico-Los Mazahaus" wowed the audience and the other dance groups. The festive dance number, based on the traditions of the Mazahua, an indigenous people of Mexico, even garnered a few standing ovations from audience members said Issac Pena, a member of the Ballet Folklórico.
"We showed some people something they have never seen before in their lives," said Pena, a junior dance major. "No one was expecting a Mexican folk dance to be presented. To bring that from Mexico to a national stage in the United States was a humbling experience for everyone."
Pena said through their dance they were able to transport the audience to a place in time in Mexico City and bring a story to life through their colorful costumes and dance technique. The group performed two shows - a matinee and an evening show.
"At the evening performance we really knew that we had made an impact on the crowd because everybody was off of their seats and everyone was clapping and smiling," Pena said. "It felt good to present something different. I think maybe we were the first folklórico group to perform at the national festival."
Performing on a national stage at the Kennedy Center and visiting Washington, D.C. was a life-changing experience for Pena and his fellow dancers, who visited D.C. landmarks like the White House and the Lincoln Memorial when they had some free time.
Tanya Miller, like many of the performers, was on her first trip to the nation's capital. Miller, a May 2012 graduate in dance performance, described the whole dance festival experience as "surreal" and said it showed her that all is possible with her career.
"It definitely inspired me and will be a huge motivating factor to keep going. There are a lot of opportunities out there. The sky's the limit," she said.
Ballet Folkórico student performers included Robert Alvarez, Vanessa Balderas, Jossue Barajas, Alejandra Barrenechea, Sandra Cantu, Magin Cervantes, Esther Colin, Ricardo Fernandez, Ricardo Flores, Juan Antonio Garcia, Ana Karen Garcia, Zeidy Garza, Erika Gonzalez, Aracely Longoria, Juan Lopez, Monica Martinez, Tanya Miller, Issac Pena, Miguel Angel Pena, Cristobal Rojas, Maria Elena Sanchez, Norma Silva, Andrew Smith, and Max Tijerina. The group is made up of UTPA undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a variety of majors.
Francisco Munoz, artistic director of the Ballet Folklórico, said he was so proud of his dancers and admits he was in awe of them when he saw them take the stage at the Kennedy Center.
"As I viewed our dancers on stage at the Kennedy Center, I witnessed a passion and commitment that radiated cultural pride, historical perspective, and excellent artistic interpretation through an unprecedented medium of Mexican folkloric dance," Munoz said.
For the Ballet Folklórico, the opportunity to perform at America's living memorial to President Kennedy came after they were chosen as one of three best choreographies at the South Central American College Dance Festival hosted by Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas in March. Nationally recognized adjudicators selected the group based on artistic excellence and merit. The dance troupe advanced to the national dance festival along with universities from nine other ACDFA regions.
To learn more about the Ballet Folklórico, visit www.utpa.edu/dance.