The Killeen-based Ballet Folklorico Tenjo performed a number of cultural dances and songs Tuesday in the Shelton Theater in celebration of Hispanic heritage month, which runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
The non-profit group’s self-described mission is to “promote cultural awareness through music and dance.” The organization is led by director and dance instructor Sonija Hauger, education director Estella Gomez, parents’ president Amy Herrera, and public relations director Marisa Cano.
“I grew fond of Ballet Folklorico for the very first time when I was just a young girl,” Cano, a junior psychology major, said. “I went to the University of Pan America in Edinburg with my school during a field trip and saw a performance. I loved the show. It was then I decided I wanted to learn everything about Ballet Folklorico and especially how to dance it.”
Cano met the other directors when they were all members of another dance group. After speaking with each other, they decided they wanted to form a group that would focus only on traditional Mexican Folklorico dancing.
The group came together in January 2010 soon after that initial meeting. The organization quickly began performing at local events and soon grew to its current size of more than 25 members. While still small, the group grew quickly in those first months and hopes to add newer members over time.
As public relations director, Cano books the shows and fundraisers for the group, and she was contacted to perform at the university by sociology Professor Dr. Jose Martinez.
“Every year I like to organize some event in recognition of Hispanic heritage month,” Martinez said. “Marisa mentioned the group in one of my classes, so I started working with her to get the group to perform at UMHB.”
The performance lasted for about an hour and included both songs and dances from Mexican culture. Folklorico dancing is a style that emphasizes various dances from many regions of Mexico, allowing the audience to see a broad range of movements and culture.
“I feel very passionate about Mexican folklorico dancing because not only is it in rich in my culture, but it helps preserve the traditions and beauty of each region in Mexico,” Cano said.
Martinez said more than 100 students attended the event and that he thought the program was well received.
“It was good to see so many students involved in something so positive like this,” he said. “There was some really good singing by some really talented performers, and the dancing was great.”
Martinez said he was not sure what the university would do to celebrate Hispanic heritage month next year, but that it would be nice to see the folklorico group again.
Cano said, “I thought the audience reception went very well, and they seemed to enjoy it very much. I would love to do this again sometime.”