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Joyful Rhythms: Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre

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Credit: Mary WilkinsKelly

Dance is about more than the music, more than the movements. Consider the colors, the expressions on the dancer’s faces; then consider everything else. Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre started in the Rogue Valley nearly 25 years ago when Mexican-America high school students wanted to pursue this traditional yet stylized dancing.

“We hold classes at our studio at Central Medford High School Annex and we perform in as many as 30 events each year, including at the Britt KidsKoncerts, OSF’s Green Show, parades, fairs and at schools, retirement homes and many other venues,” says Business Manager Candace Turtle.

Choreographer Amalia Hernandez created Ballet Folklorico in 1952. The style blends traditional European ballet with Mexican dancing. “Hernandez, know as Ami, choreographed more than 40 ballets and used local dance traditions from nearly 60 different regions of Mexico,” says Turtle. “Today, her school in Mexico City teaches and certifies instructors in this form of folkloric dance for the purpose of performance.”

The group currently has 35 students. Families help with wardrobe, carpooling, and props. Along with familial support, Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre was awarded a grant from the Jackson County Cultural Coalition and has been awarded other grants throughout the state to help with expenses.

“I was told, when I joined the group in January of this year, that a member of an audience once walked up to one of our dancers and thanked them for their performance, adding: ‘I didn’t know Mexico had any culture,’ ” Turtle says. “This story may have grown in re-telling but there may be a grain of truth in the idea that many people don’t know much about the culture of Mexico beyond tacos and tequila. The dances we perform reflect the many strands of Mexican culture and the forces that have affected the development of our neighbor to the south.”

Certain dances reflect different areas of Mexican culture, she adds, such as dances about women fighting alongside men for independence, Spanish colonial days, and even a combination of European, African, and Amerindian cultures.

“We hope our audiences are filled with appreciation for joyful movement, learn a little about the culture or history of Mexico, and gain an appreciation for a beautiful country that is more than Cinco de Mayo and nachos,” she says. “Our organizational mission has two important parts: To instill pride and knowledge of Hispanic heritage in our dancers and to share Ballet Folklorico with our neighbors through performance.”

 

Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre

6:45 pm, Sunday, September 16

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 15 S. Pioneer Street, Ashland.

Free.

 

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