A dance studio on the Northwest Side is working to keep a Mexican tradition alive. And for a group of young dancers, there is joy to be found in every step and turn.
“It’s so special because of the dresses and stuff,” said Arianna Jaimes. “It’s just so beautiful.”
Jaimes is one of 400 students of all ages taking classes at Ballet Folklorico de Chicago.
“It’s about putting on a show for great people, and I love the steps we do and performing with the rest of my group,” said dancer Grace Carrizales.
It all started as an idea for owner Ofelia Guerra.
“I was looking for a studio, and we realized there was nothing on the North Side of Chicago so I started it off as a kid organization,” Guerra said. “We started off at the Park District, and we quickly outgrew it. Now we’re here at Six Corners.”
The traditional folkloric dance is meant to express the spirit and Mexican culture of people through its movements and music.
“It’s a combination of ballet steps and folkloric traditions from our country influenced by the Europeans, the Africans and Indigenous.” Guerra said.
The dance style consists of a lot of footwork, steps that Liluyue Vazquez, 12, says she has fun learning.
“I feel proud of myself, and I also feel like that confidence in me,” Vazquez said. “I feel like when I’m in the front dancing, I smile, and I do my thing.”
The dance organization has given these students the opportunity to perform all across the city and state. Eva Amaya Ortega Villa has been one of those students.
“It makes me proud that I can express my culture here in Chicago. You couldn’t before, and now I can,” Villa said.
Keeping the Mexican tradition alive is where Guerra says she found her passion to grow the dance organization.
“I do this out of labor of love and I know all the teachers do to. It’s just amazing the way our culture has brought everyone together,” Guerra said.
Guerra hopes her daughters pass it down to the next generation.
“I’m proud that she made this organization,” Amelia Ochoa said. “She made it so everyone could get together as a community. You need to show your culture to the world.”
Ballet Folklorico de Chicago is going on its fifth year. With more students enrolling, the owner is searching for a bigger studio on the city's North Side.