When moving to the United States, Dulce Chavez Rea left behind many people and traditions from her hometown of Michoacán, Mexico. But she realized several months ago that there was one thing she didn’t have to say goodbye to.
Chavez, a senior at Park City High School who grew up doing traditional Mexican dancing, decided to keep dancing and start a Mexican folk dance club at her new high school. The club currently has four members and is scheduled to perform at a community event on May 24.
The students of the club practice and perform traditional dances from different regions of Mexico. They rehearse twice a week for two hours in the school cafeteria.
Chavez said she got the idea for the club after some students performed a traditional Mexican dance at a Day of the Dead celebration in 2017. She approached Dirk Gootjes, the high school’s Latino outreach coordinator, to see if he could help her. create a dance club.
Gootjes and Chavez organized and launched the club in the fall. They had their first performance at the school’s Day of the Dead celebration in November. During all three club numbers, Chavez said, the crowd cheered and cheered on the dancers. She said the support motivated her to grow the club.
Gootjes helped secure grants from the Park City Education Foundation and the high school’s parent-teacher-student organization to pay for the club’s costumes, which come from Mexico. The club also raised funds at the Live PC Give PC event.
The club was also able to find an instructor shortly after its establishment. Lilia Suarez, who immigrated to the Park City area from Mexico 10 years ago, agreed to choreograph and teach the dances.
She brought decades of dance experience to the group. She started taking dance lessons in Mexico when she was 8 years old. At 18, she was touring the world with the Ballet Folklórico de Mexico.
She toured with the group for 10 years, then taught dance and art in Mexico. She was happy to have the opportunity to teach students again and share her culture with the city.
“We give those who are here a bit of the culture that we have in Mexico,” Suarez said in Spanish.
Club member Alejandro Arredondo is happy to be dancing again. He grew up doing traditional Mexican dance at school. When he moved from the Mexican state of Baja California to Park City two years ago, he said he was sad that there were no dance groups he could join.
“All my life I’ve been dancing,” he said. “It’s a way to express what I feel and my culture.”
He hopes the club will be able to break the stereotypes some people have about Mexican immigrants and teach the community about Mexico’s diversity. Each state in Mexico has its own dance styles, music, clothing and food. The club plans to showcase the different dance styles during their performances.
Chavez said the club is not just a way to teach the community, but a chance for them to honor where they come from.
“I’m not going to forget my roots even if I’m not where they are,” Chavez said in Spanish. “I’m proud of who I am and where I come from.”
The club plans to present six dances at its next event. Three of the numbers are dances from the northern region of Mexico and three from a western state called Jalisco. The show will include group dances and couple dances, as well as traditional Mexican songs and poetry. The event will take place at Ecker Hill Middle School from 7-8 p.m.
Chavez said now that she graduated, she hopes the club will continue. The remaining students and Gootjes plan to expand it next year so middle and middle school students can also participate.
There are many things Park City can learn from the club, Gootjes said.
“The Latin American population is growing here, and they need to remember their heritage, remember where they come from, be proud of their heritage and know they are part of the community,” he said. “The community should see that Latinos are an important part of who we are in Park City.”