From an after-school activity stemming out of her ESL classroom in South Medford High School, Victoria Snow Mountain developed an enduring and successful multicultural performance group. I met Snow at El Tapatio Restaurant here in Ashland. As we enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast with her three delightful granddaughters, Snow described the evolution of her remarkable dance troupe, Ballet Folklórico.
EH: How does participating in Ballet Folklórico affect the character of its performers?
VSM: We’ve always seen that performing makes people feel poised and proud of themselves and have more self-assurance. Our vision is a community where the kids are poised and confident. Our mission is to empower kids to dance, and to feel comfortable with their cultural heritage, whatever their cultural heritage may be. We are preserving some of the cultural traditions of Mexico in particular, in the costumes and performances that we do. The majority of our dancers are Latino kids, yet our group is open to all people. Many of our dancers aren’t Latino. We are preserving and transmitting the traditional cultural values of respect, responsibility, and collaboration that are found not only in the Latino culture. Most cultures have that same basis, so it’s for everybody.
We do see amazing transformations. We see kids who come in very timid and very immature and shy, who learn to work with other people. They learn to respect the dance instructor and to respect the other dancers whether they are of their same culture or not. They learn to take responsibility for their part in the dance, the steps they must do, the place they must be in, the costume that they wear. They learn to work together to cooperate and collaborate with other people. It does make kids a lot more self-assured, and confident, and proud of themselves. And it helps them to have one foot in traditional culture and one foot in modern culture. We teach them these very traditional dances and costumes and music, but then we take them to some pretty modern venues. The most dramatic would probably the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show. They’re out there dancing for several hundred people out on the outdoor stage.
EH: What about the family dynamic?
VSM: Another nice thing, that we’re just seeing recently, is that it’s bringing families together. The parents of lot of kids in the Ballet Folklórico are immigrants who speak Spanish with the traditional culture and lifestyle. Then the kids grow up here, and they get into the mainstream USA culture. And sometimes the parents and kids lose touch with each other, literally sometimes can’t even talk to each other as kids lose their Spanish and parents don’t gain their English. They certainly have even more cultural divides than most parents face with their pre-teens and teens. The parents generally love to participate as support people in Ballet Folkórico. They’re very proud to see their children performing. And the kids love that their parents are so proud of them, and so it really does strengthen the family. It helps keep families working together and communicating.
The Ballet Folklórico has become a cultural ambassador. It’s a privilege to get to represent all that is good and beautiful about the Latino culture. We get to break stereotypes, show the community these wonderful young people, and help build bridges.
Members of Ballet Folklórico will be performing at the INTERCAMBIO Talent Showcase on April 17, 7-9 p.m., at Kids Unlimited, 821 North Riverside in Medford. Admission is Free.
For more information on Ballet Folklórico, you may e-mail Victoria Mountain firstname.lastname@example.org, or call: 541-261-1906.