South Suburban Ballet Company Highlights Hispanic Heritage, Mental Health Awareness

A ballet company southwest of the city is closing out Hispanic Heritage Month with dancers rooted in the celebration of Hispanic culture, while also bringing attention to mental health. 

For the last 11 years, professional dancers with Ballet 5:8 in Orland Park have utilized the artform to not only express their passion, but to tell stories to a community lacking substantial art resources. Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager believes that commitment is important.

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“There is very little in this area of town for art,” Rubio Slager says. “There is a lack of awareness of how important the arts are, and we have a chance to educate in a way where know one else is.”

They’re currently using their work to educate their peers on a difference of identities, with a Hispanic Heritage Month showcase.

“‘Me Familia,’ I created in 2015, wanted to show the real heart of Mexican immigrants … something that would show the real hearts of Mexican immigrants,” Rubio Slager says. 

Miranda Rubio has been dancing professionally with the company for the past three years. Being of Hispanic heritage and White passing, Rubio says she’s utilized her positionality to ensure that her primarily White colleagues felt comfortable dancing outside of their comfort zones.

“When staging ‘Me Familia,’ I noticed hesitancy. It has Flamenco and Folklorico, and we would use Spanish terms to refer to steps and they would say it in English,” Miranda Rubio says. 

“So we had a rehearsal for me to speak to the company and I explained how to say certain words, and we’d speak through what Flamenco is.” Rubio says. “Ballet is all in French. Very few of us are French, but we talk in French all the time. It’s ok to do a dance not in your country of origin and to use the terms in that style of dance.”

Among these conversations of cultural awareness will also come stories addressing mental health issues.

“Dia de los Vivos, a play on Muertos, means day of the living. It’s a piece I choreographed based on my own journey with clinical depression,” Rubio Slager says. “What you’ll see in the piece is my family who have passed on and are encouraging me to choose life.”

“It’s important we be honest about mental health in the arts,” Rubio Slager continues. “We need to strip the expectation that artists are perfect all the time.”

Whether it be educating non-diverse communities, mental health or just telling a story on the importance of family; Ballet 5:8 hopes audiences leave with a sense of understanding.

“I hope people take away the story that Hispanic communities are telling are unique, but familiar.” Rubio says. “Looking past our differences and looking at what makes us the same will bring us together quicker than anything else will.”

You can see the full Ballet 5:8 company in “Imagine Better” on Oct. 15 at the Athenaeum Center, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Visit their website for additional fall performance date at

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