In a dance studio, with a mirror wall and a wooden floor that resounds to the rhythm of the Yucatecan danzón Flor de Azhar, young people from the SIMA Folkloric Ballet rehearse their choreography every Saturday afternoon.
Boys between 15 and 25 years of age dance in pairs, with serious faces, but with a slight smile that conveys concentration and how much they enjoy practicing the dance pieces.
“Come on, parapa, pam, pam, pam, to the left and now to the right. Let’s go guys”, says Professor Christopher Fierro, 22, who is also a dancer at SIMA.
Second and third generation Hispanic youth in North Texas have found through folkloric dance a discipline that allows them to learn about their roots, their cultural heritage, practice Spanish, form a character, create new friendships and, above all, develop an agility in the art of dance in academies in the area.
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At SIMA, Fierro speaks to his students most of the time in English, however, between dances he says phrases in Spanish such as “sí se puede”, “vamos” or explains to them with “spanglish” what the next song will be that they are going to dance or how they should line up for the musical tableau. For Fierro it is important to connect with his students and make them feel comfortable.
“If I have to talk to you in spanglish so that they feel comfortable and understand me, that’s fine. I have to put myself in their shoes and what we want is for them to feel comfortable here so they can enjoy dancing and learn about their traditions,” said Fierro, who is studying business at the University of Texas at Austin.
Fierro, who studies business at the University of Texas at Austin, has been dancing since he was 3 years old and throughout his life he has seen how the connection with his Mexican roots has been able to extend through dance. This teaching is transmitted to her students at SIMA.
“I see dancing as a way to connect with my family, to learn more about where my parents come from and how beautiful Mexico is,” said young dancer Alberto Medrano, 18, whose parents are from Guerrero, Mexico.
Medrano, who was born in Irving and is studying for her associate’s degree at El Centro de Dallas College, began dancing at SIMA at age 15. He became interested in folkloric dance after being invited to be a chamberlain at a quinceañera for which they rehearsed at the academy’s facilities.
During Saturday practices at SIMA, the girls wear their hair completely up and decorated with a braid. His uniform consists of a black shirt and pants that have the academy logo, in addition to the iconic Cuban-heeled shoes that have nails on the toe.
Some of the dancers wear black heels; others wear blue or red shoes with flowers and hand-painted details.
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The boys wear the same shorts and black t-shirt as the girls for rehearsals.
Between one song and another, the boys joked in the dance studio that for many has become their second home, since they spend more than eight hours a week there. At the moment that Fierro tells them that it is time to pay attention, their conversations and jokes end and those faces of concentration return to the scene.
Marilyn López, 19, is one of the SIMA dancers. The young woman born in Dallas and who lives in Irving with her parents from Michoacán and Morelos, has been with the folk group for six years.
“It is the atmosphere of camaraderie that I like the most, feeling at home, knowing that my friends are here,” said the young woman who graduated from Macarthur High School in 2021. “We are all united by love and passion for dance,” said López, who is also an instructor at the academy.
The connection with culture is something very important and usually the main reason why parents bring their children to the academy, according to Silvia Parra, director of SIMA.
This was the case of Benjamin Dominzain, 19, whose father is originally from Guanajuato and lives in Bedford.
“My mom wanted me to dance so I wouldn’t lose my dad’s traditions and language,” said Dominzain, who prefers to speak English and is a business student at Texas Wesleyan University. “Since I was 5 I started dancing and it’s something I love, I haven’t stopped and I don’t want to stop dancing, it’s something beautiful.”
The academy began in 2005 when they offered folk dance classes at an Irving recreation center. In 2017 they opened the doors of their current studio. At SIMA, children from the age of 4 can take classes.
“Many parents bring their children because they danced in Mexico and they want them to practice it, but also because they don’t want them to be lazy at home,” said Parra. “They want them to do something that helps them be disciplined, responsible and have healthy fun.”
more than dance
At the Mexico 2000 academy, on Monday afternoons, the youngsters arrive energetically at the facilities located in Garland, but before entering the ballroom they must ask their coach for permission to enter.
“Can I come in?” the boys asked in English as they arrived at the studio, wearing their black t-shirt with the Mexico 2000 logo in red. The girls came to class prepared with their hair tied back and their Cuban shoes that have nails on the tips.
“It is teaching them everything, not only to dance, it is respect for themselves, their time, my time, their partners. Discipline is a fundamental part for them to succeed in dance and in their lives in general”, commented Alex Palencia, director and coach at Mexico 2000 for more than 20 years.
Palencia, originally from Mexico City, explained that in dance, children and young people can develop many skills by being able to express themselves with their body and have an alert mind, since when executing the dances, coordination of multiple parts of the body is needed. and go at the same pace as their peers.
“It is good to instill in them from a young age and through dance what it means to work as a team and that everyone is responsible for a dance group to come out,” added Palencia. “And it works the same with adolescents, young people have to carry out an activity that helps them stimulate their interests and learn to live with others.”
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For Jesica Desiderio, 17, a student at John D Horn High School in Mesquite, starting folk dance three years ago was more than an after-school activity, her mother said.
“It was like his life came back. Jesica was having emotional problems and after going to a therapist she recommended that we write her down in dance, ”said Marisol Desiderio, Jesica’s mother.
Although Jesica does not speak much Spanish, through dancing she has been able to learn more about the culture of her father, originally from León, Guanajuato.
After graduating in the summer, Jesica hopes to be admitted to the University of Texas at the Rio Grande, which has a ballet folklorico group for dance students.
preserve the culture
In the Mexico 2000 academy, located in Garland, in addition to dancing, young people learn about the history behind each musical painting.
“They are the ones who are going to preserve our culture, the ones who are here to pass it on to future generations and we need them to know what each thing means,” said Mary Palencia, director of Mexico 2000.
The academy travels throughout the year to different schools in the state to bring folkloric dance presentations, activities and educational workshops. This model is also replicated in homes for the elderly.
For Daniel González, training in a dance academy since he was a child helped him manage his time and be able to balance school, work and extracurricular activities.
“It’s the little things you learn without realizing it, the responsibilities that make you a better young man and be committed to what you do and to your peers,” said Gonzalez, who is 20, a Dallas resident who returned a couple of years ago. weeks of his military service in the Middle East.
González’s parents took him to Mexico 2000 when he was 8 years old and although he did not like it at first, today he invites more boys to join this art.
“It’s for everyone, you don’t have to be Mexican, or know how to dance, here you can learn. What you do need is to have desire, a good attitude and with that you have, we can all learn,” added González, the son of Mexican parents from the state of Tamaulipas.
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Both academies are preparing their groups for their respective annual performances.
The boys from the group “Cinco y Compañía” from México 2000 will perform on Sunday, September 25 at the Granville Arts Center in Garland where they will dance six pieces that include sones from Veracruz, zoques from Chiapas, huapango dances, sones from Jalisco and other genres. .
SIMA will hold its annual festival on Sunday, November 20 at the Irving Arts Center, where group 6 will perform dances from the Yucatan region, such as China Chinita and Flor de Azahar.