On Thursday, May 30, Noche Folklórica will bring together students from El Marino, Farragut, La Ballona and Culver City Middle School to tell cultural stories of Mexico through dance. This showcase event is made possible because of the passion, dedication, and collaborative spirit amongst three Ballet Folklórico teachers, all whom teach within CCUSD; El Marino teacher Jayro Armenta, Victor Herrera who teaches at both La Ballona and CCMS, and Celeste Arredondo at Farragut. It will be the first time that all of these Ballet Folklórico students will come together to perform as a group to showcase the beauty of the dance and the depth of the Mexican culture.
Ballet Folklórico is offered at the four school sites in differing capacities. La Ballona, Farragut and CCMS offer afterschool Grupo Folklórico classes. These classes have existed for many years and continue to offer culturally enriching dance opportunities to more than 40 students. Celeste Arredondo teaches at Farragut. Victor Herrera teaches at La Ballona and CCMS.
“Folklore is about keeping up with traditions, culture and passion,” said Sr. Herrera. “We see the different cultures that have influenced our roots. Learning where cultures come from can help us understand where we are going.”
Grupo Folklórico de El Marino originated when one teacher’s passion for dance inspired him to bring to life to El Marino’s mission to foster culturally rich experiences for students. Supported by El Marino’s PTA, it is a class offered by one of El Marino’s first-grade Spanish Immersion teachers, Jayro Armenta.
“Armenta has evolved the vision as a dance program that supports cultural competency goals and capacities for El Marino,” said Rosemary Quintero, who is also a founder of the program. About 35 third- through fifth-graders from El Marino’s Spanish and Japanese Immersion Programs participate. This amazingly dedicated group students come to practice twice a week before school, ready to be immersed in learning the dance steps and the deep cultural traditions and values that are part of Folklórico. They also perform at school assemblies and community events.
“In just two years, under the talented creative direction of Sr. Armenta, the students have flourished to the Grupo de Folklórico de El Marino you see today,” she said.
Noche Folklórica came together because these three teachers’ spirit of collaboration.
“Sr. Armenta had one small desire for all his own students to dance together on one stage,” explained Ms. Quintero. “When the Frost Auditorium re-opened, Sr. Armenta and I immediately reached out to Mr. Herrera and Ms. Arredondo to see if it piqued their interest to dance together. Noche Folklórica was a meeting of the minds and souls!”
Both the parents and the students love the experience.
“Folklórico has taught my girls to work as a team, they are very inspired by the beautiful dances and its culture,” said Yadira Lopez.
“I have enjoyed watching my daughter immerse herself in the Mexican culture through the Ballet Folklórico,” said parent Violet Mendoza. “While we are not from Mexico, we appreciate the beauty of the different areas of Mexico the through song and dance. Sr. Armenta is doing a fabulous job of weaving the cultural aspect into education.”
“Ballet Folklórico has had a big impact on my life,” said CCMS student Ellie. “It’s helped me in many ways by helping me learn more dances and techniques with my feet. It’s really fun for me to be able to do performances and practice and get better. Ballet Folklórico is one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life so far and I wouldn’t have done it differently.”
“I love the Folklórico program at La Ballona!” said parent Laura Loo. “My daughter has been in it for four years, my son for three years, and I can definitely see the improvement in their rhythm and grace. Victor, the instructor, has a true passion for dance. We love the costumes and performing, the whole experience has been wonderful!”
“I am pleased to say how appreciative and happy I am that CCMS offers Ballet Folklórico,” said sixth-grade parent Maria Salas. “This program has helped my daughter enrich her cultural background roots by engaging in dancing, costume, and insight into the different states and regions of Mexico, by way of dancing. It’s a wonderful way to grow and express artistically their talent.”
The nearly 80 students will perform at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 30 at Robert Frost Auditorium. You won’t want to miss the talent of these young performers as they tell stories with every step and colorful twirl! The event is free and open to the public.