Iowa State Center in Ames, Iowa presented Ballet Folklorico de Amalia Hernandez in October 2012.
This Arts Midwest Touring Fund—supported engagement featured a public performance and workshops and discussions over three days.
The Iowa State Center at The University of Iowa selects their season to reflect the highest quality possible within their budget. The season typically includes the disciplines of music, theater, dance, family, and popular programming for the mainstage. Outreach includes pre-show discussions, study guides, post-show question-and-answers, and previews to select audiences, including underserved social service clients. The Center also hosts a school-time matinee series for K-12 students which are related to the school’s curriculum. Audiences are from Central Iowa and are within a 150-mile area, including nearby rural communities. In addition, The Center partners with area high schools to give students the opportunity to see a performance, meet visiting artists, and journal about their experience for English credits.
In 1952 Amalia Hernàndez, a dancer, teacher, and choreographer at the Mexican Academy of Dance, founded a small company which became the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She started with a weekly TV program, sponsored by the Mexican government. From the start, she sought to rescue the dancing traditions of Mexico. Her inspiration comes from the Mexico’s strong cultural heritage which include tales of gods, animals, and myths. Her creations reflect not only on Mexico but on the other areas of the world from pre-Colombian civilizations to the Hispanic influences of the Vice Royal era to the populist strength of the Revolutionary years. Today, Ballet Folklorico de Mexico has over 50 dancers who bring the culture of Mexico to life in a colorful, fast-paced show combining music, dance, and costumes of its rich tradition. Amaliea Hernàndez has choreographed 40 ballets. The company has alternate tours and performances in Mexico and abroad, logging over 5,000 performances to date.
Ballet Folklorico de Mexico presented a beautiful evening of dance exploring the rich traditions and history of Mexico at the Iowa State Center. The evening performance included everything from celebratory wedding party dances to hunting rituals. The costuming and sheer energy were the most commented aspects of the performance.
The most meaningful moments, aside from the performance itself, came in the reactions of those reached through ticket distribution and outreach activities. The Iowa State Center built upon their relationships with Gear Up Iowa, a statewide initiative to encourage first-generation American students to pursue a college education, and Ames Boys and Girls Club. A question-and-answer session with company members and an Iowa State University staff member was tied into a campus visit from students from North High School located in Des Moines. Learning about the educational background of the performers brought home the point that education is important in every field and that the best way to achieve success is through dedicated hard work. The students were very interested to hear about how the show was developed, and how the company worked to stay true to the original intent while also having a modern appeal. The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico’s visit created an opportunity to highlight Mexican heritage and learn more about it.
The Iowa State Center developed a new partnership with Meeker Elementary School’s English as a Second Language program. The Center’s staff created materials around the performance, and teachers prepared students for the performance and what to expect at the theater. The students’ families were also invited to attend the performance which was very successful. Some families had lived in Ames for several years, but were completely unaware of the Center or its programming. One parent had tears in her eyes when she picked up tickets for her family. She had seen advertisements for the performance in the local paper and longed to attend but never dreamed she would be able to share the experience with her family. The family was of Mexican heritage and the mother explained how the performance was a testament to their home country. But on a minimum wage salary, purchasing tickets to this performance – even one so important to her – would have been much too extravagant.
“The Arts Midwest Touring Fund makes a significant difference in our programming and its reach. This funding enables us to reach out to new populations and serve our community in many great ways.” — Iowa State Center staff
This engagement was a Star Project that provided access to a geographically underserved audience by partnering with Marshalltown High School in Marshall County and engaged immigrant communities by partnering with Meeker Elementary School.