Color, rhythm, music – dancers share their culture

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

The music from the mariachi band makes you tap your foot and clap your hands, and the dancers make you smile.

This was just the perfect warmup to a special night at Regions Field: HICA (Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama) Night at “Los Barons.”

Spectators for the pre-game show tapped, clapped, smiled and hummed along. They were caught in the spell of the magical dancers whirling and swirling behind home plate.

What’s not to love about Ballet Folklorico? This happy band of dancers from St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Montevallo leaves hearts lighter wherever they go.

They were a big hit at HICA Night when they performed before the Barons’ home game against Chattanooga June 3.

Since they were organized not quite a year ago, the dancers have been to quite a few places from elementary schools to nursing homes, as well as events at St. Thomas. The members are boys and girls from 5 to 17, and they are sharing the bright ethnic dances of Mexico.

Yessica Magaly-Ramos organized the group with Griselda Garcia as an enjoyable way to keep their culture alive and to introduce non-Hispanics to traditional Mexican music and dancing.

“They represent our community, our parish and our culture,” Magaly-Ramos said of her dancers. “They do this for love.”

As the 30 youngsters wound up a camp June 9 in the St. Thomas Parish Hall, the enthusiasm was evident in the smiles and laughter.

“I don’t just like it,” said Ale Lopez-Ramos, 7, of Alabaster. “I love it.”

Asked for her favorite dance, she did not hesitate: “El Son de la Negra.” That is an energetic traditional dance—with lots of stamping of heels and whirling of skirts—from the Mexican state of Jalisco.

The costumes the girls wear are bright colors with layers of ruffles and lace; their hair is braided and adorned with bright ribbons to match the colors in their dresses. The boys wear broad black sombreros and sharply cut black suits with crisp white shirts.

“We order the clothes from Mexico,” Magaly-Ramos said.

Marisa Owens, Hispanic coordinator for Saint Thomas, said the Ballet Folklorico “got organized in October of 2016 and helped us win a prize in the Christmas Parade in November.” The dancers’ performing as part of the Saint Thomas parade entry, Owens said, made the church’s entry really stand out.

The troupe began with just 10 participants at the start, but it has grown to 30 members now.

Cristina Angeles-Chavez is in the 11th grade at Jemison High School and plans to be a speech therapist one day. The troupe knows dances from five different Mexican states, she said.

“I am involved because it is fun and because I want to learn about my culture,” she said.