Ten young faces look straight ahead with an air of concentration.
Hands are poised, boys lightly resting their hands atop their belt buckles. Girls, clad in long, colorful skirts, have their elbows bent and hands on their hips. A brisk polka music starts and the room comes alive with motion and color.
“Let’s see your smiles!” calls out their director, Yaris Navarro.
In addition to careful footwork, swirling skirts, and sweeps of the boys’ hats, the children punctuate the music with staccato taps of boots and heels. At the end of the fast-paced song, the youth throw their hands and hats up in the air and call out, “Hey!”
It’s a practice session of the Anderson Ballet Folklorico, a youth dance troupe that performs traditional dances from different regions in Mexico.
They perform under the direction of artistic director Navarro and her sister, Tanya Gonzalez. Rehearsals are held at St. Mary’s School annex.
“Our mission is just to share the beauty of the Mexican folk dance culture,” said Gonzalez. “Folklorico means a form of cultural folk style. It means something cultural passed on. When you put it with ballet, it refers to the style of dance.”
The group currently has 28 dancers, some as young as three, all the way up to age 19. Anderson Ballet Folklorico is the only group of its kind in Central Indiana. The group has performed as far afield as Ohio and Illinois. They will perform at St. Mary’s Church on Sunday as part of a Cinco de Mayo celebration and a fundraiser for an eighth-grade class trip.
Cinco de Mayo recalls the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 when the Mexican army defeated the much larger and better equipped invading French forces. It is a day to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.
In Sunday’s Cinco de Mayo performance, the troupe will perform dances from the Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz, and polkas from northern Mexico.
“They love just dancing,” said Meghan Huicochea. She peeked in to see her daughter Marilyn, age 4, practicing her steps. “The big colorful dresses — they love twirling their skirts.”
“They like the boots, everything that’s Mexican,” said Maria Esquivel, of her sons Bryan, 4, and Francisco, 7.
“I like the skirts,” said dancer Hope Jones, age 11. “They’re just really colorful and pretty.”
Gonzalez said, “In Mexico, each state has their own costume. We wear traditional folk costumes representing the state.”
The Puebla skirt Jones and the other girls practiced in is the bright red and green of the Mexican flag, sparkling with butterflies and an eagle motif. In performance, the girls wear decorative braids.
Male dancers may wear black suits, sombreros and boots that resound when a foot taps the floor. Other times, the style may be cowboy hats and kerchiefs.
Anderson Ballet Folklorico launched in 2002. It was sparked by a single performance organized by Griselda Garcia, Navarro and Gonzalez’s mother, for Mass on December 12 that year, celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe. Navarro subsequently took up teaching the group.
“We each took dance growing up,” said Gonzalez. The sisters originally hail from California, moving to Anderson in 1993. In addition to academic preparation, Navarro also studied with an Indianapolis group, Ensemble Folklorique. “She’s been a dancer all her life.”
“We’re just glad to share our culture. It’s a good mission,” said Gonzalez.
Like Nancy Elliott on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @NancyElliott_HB, or call 640-4805.