By John Philip Wyllie
Grupo Folklorico Bonita Vista celebrated its successful first year of existence by participating in an event that Bonita Vista High School teacher and group advisor Sandra Flores would like to turn into a tradition. The school’s first ever “Latino Night” held on campus in the Bolles Theater June 1 included beautifully costumed folklorico dancers performing to live Mariachi music, a Spanish language book fair and of course, plenty of delicious Mexican food.
“I would hate to see this event become the first and the last,” said Flores. “I’d like to see it continue every year.” With the progress Flores and her group made this year, an annual “Latino Night” seems well within the realm of possibility.
While eight other high schools within the Sweetwater Union High School District have their own Folklorico dance troupes, prior to this year, Folklorico dancing at Bonita Vista High was operated as a club which meet sporadically during lunchtime or after school. Last fall, with the help of school principal Ramon Leyba, permission was obtained to operate the activity as a class for which the students received physical education credit. Meeting on a daily basis improved the level of attendance and the quality of the dancing in a dramatic way.
“I love to dance, especially Folklorico,” said Flores who has made dancing a part of her life since her youth across the border in Jalisco. “I just wanted to offer a different P.E. option for the students. Now they can get their P.E. credit through dancing and at the same time learn more about their culture.
”We’ve had a number of parents that have been very helpful in assisting the kids with things like their makeup and raising funds,” Flores explained.
“Many of the teachers have been supportive too by buying whatever we are selling as fundraisers. I’d like to see the program grow larger. We need our own dance classroom, (additional) storage space and more costumes and materials to make them.”
While space is at a premium at Bonita Vista High with many teachers already sharing classrooms, Flores is fortunate to have costume designer Ina Fogelquist as her classroom assistant. Fogelquist has been involved in Folklorico for years both as a performer and as an organizer. A highly skilled seamstress, Fogelquist has made many of the costumes herself. Others have been purchased from Hilltop High’s well established group.
Of the 50 students that originally signed up for the class, 33 stayed with it and are part of the group that performs on occasion at a variety community events. “We have 28 girls and only four boys, so the boys are involved in every dance,” Fogelquist said.
“In Mexico, Folklorico dancing is considered an art,” she explained. “It is given the same level of importance as art and drama.” This year the group has focused on the dances popular in the state of Jalisco which according to Flores, are the most well known and popular in Mexico. “In the future, I’d like to see the kids learn some of the dances popular in the other 27 states,” she said. “Learning these dances make the students very proud of who they are. It makes them feel very secure of their roots and proud. By learning these dances they in a way become ambassadors of their culture.”