SAN ANTONIO – A big anniversary is being celebrated in San Antonio. For the past 30 years, the Guadalupe Dance Company has been entertaining and educating audiences through folklorico dance.
Baile folklorico or folkloric dance references to the beliefs, practices and customs of the Mexican culture and its various regions. It is known for its colorful costumes and lively music. Each dance helps tell the story of Mexico.
“It really is amazing, and it’s such a great feeling that we are still together 30 years later,” Belinda Menchaca said. Menchaca is the educational director for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and original dance member of the Guadalupe Dance Company. She clearly remembers that first performance three decades ago.
“We were part of the citywide Grito ceremony on September 15, 1991 on the stage of the Lila Cockrell Theater,” Menchaca said. Each year, the City of San Antonio celebrates Mexico’s Independence Day with a public festivity. It commemorates the battle cry or el grits made by the Priest Miguel Hidalgo in 1810, hours after midnight. The battle cry was followed by the ringing of the church bells in the town of Dolores, Hidalgo and is recreated each year on the eve of September 16. “The celebrity from Mexico (that year) was Gonzalo Vega. He was the special guest that evening, and it was a grand event.”
She also remembers Jeanette Chávez, a dancer with the company who 30 years later serves as the dance coordinator for the group.
“I was so young, I didn’t even know that it was attached to this amazing, huge historical cultural arts center. So… I fell in love (with) everything that the cultural center stood for for our community and for our culture. I just wanted to be part of it, and that was the hook for me,” Chávez said.
It’s through the history lessons embedded in the music, choreography and traditional attire that Mexican Folklorico dancers, like Chávez and Menchaca hope to preserve and promote their culture.
“There are all the states in Mexico and then within each state, there’s so many different regions,” Chávez said. “It’s learning those traditions and those cultures (of the regions) and having a sense of pride. You know, I think especially in today’s world, we need that, and that’s a beautiful thing to be able to connect with.”
The Guadalupe Dance Company also takes pride in being on the city’s West Side and learning about their community’s stories.
“I think that’s why the Guadalupe Dance Company has survived the 30 years, because we’re based in tradition,” Menchaca said. “We’re informed by our history, but we are able to tell our stories of our community. So, you know, the work that we do has social context. We bring people’s stories to the stage, and that’s very empowering.”
The big celebration for their 30th anniversary will be on Friday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. The dancers will be accompanied by Mariachi Azteca at Plaza Avenida Guadalupe.
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