Es tiempo de bailar! (It’s time to dance!)
RIFLE, Colorado – Jessica Hernandez remembers the thrill. The music. The costumes.As a teenager in San Bernardino, Calif., Hernandez danced in a Mexican dance troupe, or a grupo folklrico, in her own high school. Now 34, she and her husband are continuing the dance tradition of their Mexican culture’s past. The couple started the Grupo Folklrico Sol de Mexico, a regional Latino dance group for children, in the summer of 2011.”I learned it in high school,” she said. “I fell in love with the music, the dances, the dresses and the costumes.”Hernandez said she noticed the Rifle area was missing a cultural link for Latino children to learn more about their culture and the music and dance of their ancestors.”Most of the kids didn’t even know what folklrico was,” she said. “They were born here so they were being raised without it.”As the group was being formed, the couple put out flyers and asked friends to help spread the word in the community about the folkloric dance troupe.”Immediately we had a lot of response,” Hernandez said. “It really keeps that tradition and culture we share alive in the community.”The troupe started small, since Hernandez and her husband, Manuel J., both work full-time jobs in addition to managing Sol de Mexico. Now with 27 members – three of which are Hernandez’s sons, one her nephew – Sol de Mexico features a full roster of dancers. At just over a year old, the group already has a waiting list.Sol de Mexico started with child dancers ranging in age from 8 to 13. The group has now added a 3-year-old dancer to expand its age range, not to mention cuteness factor.The boys and girls perform dances from various regions of the different states in Mexico, such as Chiapas and Jalisco.”I really love the fact that the kids are learning their backgrounds and their culture,” Hernandez said, “and that they’re excited to represent their different cultures though dance.”Hernandez said the excitement shows as the kids practice and perform.”When they are out there, they are smiling and having so much fun,” she said. “It’s awesome. They work so hard at practices and performances – they love it.” The dancers practice three days a week at the ArtillumA Dance Company in Rifle. ArtillumA executive director Lynn Churchill said Hernandez is making a name for herself in the dance community. “She does a lot of great shows around town,” Churchill said.The Sol de Mexico dancers have performed at the Garfield and Eagle county fairs, and Western Slope schools and nursing homes. The troupe also performs at nonprofit fundraisers to help others raise money in the community.”The idea of performing at schools came from my experience performing at schools when I was in San Bernardino. The kids at the schools, they love it,” Hernandez said. “It’s amazing how much they get into it, clapping, and having a great time. A few have even been interested in joining.” With elaborate costumes from the different regions of Mexico, the children dress to impress the crowds. The dancers, with the help from their parents, have been participating in different fundraisers to raise money of their own to participate. Sol de Mexico is a nonprofit dance troupe.”All the parents have been so involved in helping this happen,” Hernandez said. “They have done bake sales and car washes.”Many of the group’s original costumes are made by local seamstresses who recreate the traditional, colorful attire. Hernandez also enlists the help of mariachi suppliers and vendors. “When we did the dance for Chiapas, Mexico, the dresses came from Mexico,” she said. “I was lucky to find a vendor to send them up to us.”For one dance that represents Michoacn, Mexico, the boys dress as old men when they perform.”It’s from an old region of Mexico and has really hard steps,” Hernandez said. “It’s very popular. We have added more regional dances from way back when in time.”
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.