“Uno, dos, tres y cuatro. Una vez más!”
If you end up near the Pescadero Elementary School on a Monday evening, as you approach the building you will hear the booming voice of Maestro Zenon Barron as he leads the Ballet Folklorico class, counting and showing his young students the steps. Barron commands the rapt attention of his young pupils, while their parents stand by quietly and watch. Many of the adults remember doing the exact dances in their childhood. They watch with pride. When the parents are asked what they like about the class, one of the moms responds, “I like that he is strict.” The other parents nod.
On September 19, 2016, Puente, ALAS (Ayudando Latinos a Soñar – Helping Latinos Dream) Tonantzin and Pescadero Elementary school launched a Ballet Folklorico class for children ages 6 to 17. Every Monday after school, over 30 children stay and dance Ballet Folklorico at the school. The dancing is not only fun; it gets these young students moving and excited all while listening to music. Most importantly, these students are gaining confidence to perform in front of a crowd.
As Erica Hays, principal of Pescadero Elementary School says, “I’ve been excited to see how many students of all ages are participating in the folklorico classes. There has been a lot of enthusiasm for it. One goal of our after school program is to provide enrichment activities for the children and this is a great opportunity for them.”
Barron has danced professionally for over 30 years. His dance background is impressive and includes experience studying under Amelia Hernandez. He graduated from the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, the premier art academy in Mexico City. Zenon’s creativity and passion for teaching dance is boundless. He also designs the beautiful and elaborate wardrobe for Tonantzin. Creating a wardrobe for the dancers is another aspect of this program. Some of the parents are already excited about making the skirts and finding ways to bring other community members to help in sewing and designing.
Belinda Arriaga, from ALAS in Half Moon Bay, is thrilled to be collaborating to bring Ballet Folklorico to Pescadero. Ballet Folklorico is one of Puente’s newest programs for children and families. “As an organization, we are always finding ways to bring our community together,” says Rita Mancera, Executive Director of Puente. “This is a great example of bridging the students’ experiences with that of their parents. Many of the mothers remember dancing folklorico when they were young, including me.”
The class is open to everyone, which is a key component of the Puente vision to bring communities together. For some students this creates an opportunity to learn about a new culture through dance. For others, to connect with the traditions of their parents. The class starts with simple stretches to warm up. A short sequence of steps is demonstrated by Barron. Once he determines that his students are ready, he starts the music. The students move across the room cheerfully. You can see the smiles on their faces. The music is catchy and as an observer, you can’t help but tap along.
Barron explains, “What I like best about my career as a dance instructor is ultimately working with the children because I consider it the perfect age to develop and nurture their creativity.”
“I believe that through dance, younger students can develop a sensibility for artistry that will make allow them to develop into successful human beings,” remarks Barron.
Puente aims to nurture and grow this program in collaboration with the students’ parents. Similar to the Día de los Muertos workshop this year, leadership will come from the community and will be supported by Puente. Parents will help make the beautiful wardrobe, including colorful skirts, worn during student performances. Another important component is that the parents will be responsible for fundraising—families will solicit donations to keep the program going over the coming years, for the dancers’ wardrobe and for other supplies.
The excitement over these classes is evident. The moms and dads watch with pride as their children dance and learn the choreography. They tap and nod their heads to the music. The best part is that the students look happy and excited—they are truly having fun.
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