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May 13, 2014 > El Ballet Folklorico: Guiding students through traditional dance

El Ballet Folklorico: Guiding students through traditional dance

By Jessica NoĎl Flohr

Music and dance are universal modes of human expression. Every culture around the globe has its own form of movement and rhythm. These cultural traditions instill a strong sense of community and pass on its history to the next generation. One example can be found in the folk dancing of Mexico, or baile folklórico.

Mexican folk dancing incorporates dance forms indigenous to Mexico as well as those inherited by the countryÕs European influence; some regional dances are influenced by African traditions as well. These regional dances were often tied to religious ceremonies, first, native Aztec practices, and later, the Catholic religion brought in by Spanish missionaries. The rich tradition of folk dancing contributes to a strong sense of national identity, also preserving regional diversity.

Several groups around the Bay Area are dedicated to folk dancing. One is El Ballet de Folklorico de James Logan High School. Established by James Logan guidance counselor Jaime Huertas in 1990, this active dance troupe offers students the opportunity to participate in a timeless cultural celebration throughout their high school years.

The Union City-based group began when students sought out Huertas for help with the schoolÕs annual Cinco de Mayo program. Huertas has been a professional dancer since the mid-1970s, starting with The Ballet Folklorico de Carlos Moreno. His other professional dance troupe experiences include Aztlan de San Francisco, Compania Mexico Danza, and Aztlan de San Francisco.

When speaking with Huertas, one can hear the enthusiasm and love of the dance in his voice. He is justifiably proud of his students. ÒWe have a reputation and we work hard. We always have room for everyone. We donÕt turn away anyone who wants to practice.Ó And practice they will! Dance practice runs year round for Ballet Folklorico students. In between shows, dancers rehearse four times a week. During show preparation, practice can be five or six days a week. Like most after school programs, participation is grade-dependent. If the kids arenÕt passing their classes, they must sit out until their grades improve. This isnÕt often a problem since these high school students are a dedicated group!

Each year, El Ballet de Folklorico de James Logan High School holds its annual ÒConcierto de Primavera,Ó or spring concert. In 2010, the troupe was able to expand its program due to the opening of the Performing Arts Center at the high school. The 600-seat center is sold out every year.

This year the troupe is performing a special dance to honor the women who served alongside men who fought in the Mexican Revolution. Says Huertas, ÒWeÕre finally able to do this dance. We wanted to represent the strength of these women and pay homage to the women soldiers who fought with the men.Ó The unique theme only adds to the already awe-inspiring display that is Mexican folk dancing.

In addition to the special dance, there will be several invited dance troupes performing in the Concierto including the troupe from Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Union City, and childrenÕs dance troupe Flor de México Ballet Folklórico. Rounding out the performance is Mariachi Mexicanísimo, a traditional mariachi band, harpist Salvador Vasquez, singer Crystal Rosas, and Aguacero, a Puerto Rican Folklórico music group. Aguacero first joined the Concierto last year. This musical group performs Afro-Puerto Rican music and Latin drumming.

The ÒConcierto de PrimaveraÓ is sure to be a spectacular performance. HuertasÕ passion for dance and the dedication of these young people are a dynamite combination. Purchase tickets in advance, as this event tends to sell out quickly. For more information, contact James Logan High School at (510) 471-2520, extension 60124, or visit

Concierto de Primavera
Saturday, May 17
7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
James Logan High School Center for the Performing Arts
1800 H St, Union City
(510) 471-2520 ext. 60124
Tickets: $10 - $15

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