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Ballet Folklorico engages community with pro bono dance in Dia De Los Muertos parade

Ballet Folklorico performs at the Viva La Vida Parade

Ballet Folklorico performs at the Viva La Vida Parade

Ballet Folklorico performs at the Viva La Vida Parade

Gabrielle Wilkosz

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The university’s Ballet Folklorico team performed Concheros, a Pre-Columbian dance, in Austin’s annual Viva la Vida Parade sponsored by the Mexic-Arte Museum this Saturday.

At the noon launch of the Dia De Los Muertos celebration, Ballet Folklorico gathered with floats and paraders at east fifth street between IH 35 and Waller. The St. Edward’s dance team danced down sixth street, and the nighttime hotspot, which is notorious for its active bar scene, was populated with strollers, colorful costumes and displays urging cultural literacy.

The weekend marked junior Sam Ramirez’s first time performing Ballet Folklorico in public, and she wasn’t alone. Of the seven dancers who performed, only two were Ballet Folklorico veterans.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but the crowds were really energized and hyped up,” Ramirez said. “I just fed off of their energy and had a good time.”

As a prade assistant, sophomore Adriana Vargas helped pass out 450 flyers to the community before she ran out of information slips during the parade. Bundled up in a green jacket, Vargas told Hilltop Views that her experience passing out flyers was “a little hectic in the cold but fun.”

It might make sense how the flyers ran out so quickly. According to Adrian Orozco, a membership and marketing associate with the Mexic-Arte Museum, sign-ups for parade participation surpassed 700 people not including attendees.

Freshman Lizbeth Sanchez said the crowds gave the Ballet Folklorico team an opportunity to share and enjoy Hispanic culture during a time when being Latina has its struggles.

“It can be scary,” Sanchez said after the parade. “I can’t walk down the street without being told, ‘Oh, go back to your country.’ That’s without having done anything wrong. [It’s] vulnerability.”

Of the five sections of the parade outlined by Orozco and other organizers at the the Mexic-Arte Museum, St. Edward’s Ballet Folklorico team was slotted in the Pre-Columbian section of the parade, alongside a parade float of Quetzalcoatl the Giant Bat and other Pre-Columbian dance troupes.

Ballet Folklorico instructor Linda Valdez explained that dance team’s choice to perform Concheros was important because the folk dance “celebrates the indigenous and represents all of Mexico, not just one state or region.”

Valdez grew the program 15 years ago after two students expressed a need to dance and share Ballet Folklorico on campus. She also works with the College Assistance Migrant Program said that since its beginning, Ballet Folklorico has spread outward from campus to the surrounding areas in Austin. The team performs regular pro bono dances from places like elementary schools to parades like last weekend’s.

“Overall, there’s been a lot of support for the group in the 15 years that I’ve been here — from the university, from members, from different community groups,” Valdez said. “It’s been really fun to be in charge of it and be able to continue it. We’re hoping to continue to have it here for a lot longer.”

Ramirez, who after performing visited her hometown Flatonia, Texas, to participate in other Dia De Los Muertos celebrations, echoes Valdez. She says the folk dance group’s work engages the community and promotes unity.

“Austin has such a large Hispanic population, it’s good that people come out and appreciate what we’re doing,” Ramirez said. “We’ve gotten to know each other really well. We’ve made our own little family. It’s a community. It’s a team.”

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Ballet Folklorico engages community with pro bono dance in Dia De Los Muertos parade