ANDERSON — The St. Mary's-based Ballet Folklorico dance group is all about diversity.
And on Sunday, the dancers got to show off their traditional Mexican moves at one of the group's favorite venues, the Paramount Theatre in downtown Anderson as part of the theater's Festival of Trees, which continues throughout the week.
The group features Latin-style dancing and music, but director Tanya Gonzalez said that since she started the group 11 years ago at her local church, she's had the goal of helping the children from Hispanic families learn more about themselves, and the children from other families learn more about the world.
"It started off at Mass back in 2002. My sister and I put this together just as a one-time thing, but it grew as parents and people at church started wanting more and wanting it to grow. I'd say we've trained more than 100 kids over the years," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez runs the group with her sister Yaris Mujica and with the help of parent coordinator Annie Keller. The women currently teach about 30 children several different kinds of traditional Mexican dance styles, including Jalisco and Chiapa. The dancers also wear authentic garb that Gonzalez and Mujica purchase either from the Internet or have specially made by seamstresses.
The group tours around the state, but the dancers said their favorite venue is at home at the Paramount.
"It's a good opportunity to make friends and meet people we probably wouldn't have met otherwise," said 16-year-old Siouxzanna Keller. "It's something good to do after school to keep kids out of trouble."
The group boasts three different dance groups, divided into ages from 3 to 18. Once the operation started to take off, Gonzalez arranged for Folklorico to perform yearly as part of the holiday-themed Festival of Trees. She said the goal is to pass on traditions to younger generations and share Hispanic culture.
"We get kids from every walk of life. Some are white, black, Asian. Some come from Mexican families, others come from other kinds of Latin families. We have a little bit of everything," Gonzalez said. "We're diverse, and we're proud of it."
Annie Keller said she appreciates what the sense of family does for the dancers. She said the various performances allow the children to work and be rewarded. For example, Folklorico recently performed at the Indianapolis Zoo and then got to tour the zoo.
"We practice year-round, so these are things they're always working on," Keller said.
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Festival of Trees Events the rest of the week u Tuesday -- General admission from 4 to 7 p.m. u Gruenewald House Style Show 11:30 a.m. u Jazz bands in theater at 7 p.m. u Wednesday -- General admission from 4 to 7 p.m. u City choirs in theater at 7 p.m. u Thursday -- General admission from 4 to 7 p.m. u Madison County choirs in theater at 7 p.m. u Friday -- General admission from 4 to 7 p.m. u Bonnie and Sheri's Dance and Gymnastics in theater at 7 p.m. u Saturday -- General admission from noon to 7 p.m. u Lapel Community Band in theater at 6:30 p.m.