Keeping the tradition

When students think of teaching others, they generally picture tutoring math or science, but senior Alanis Lopez is passing on folk dances to keep the Mexican culture alive. She carries on her instructor’s legacy and teaches a folklorico dance class to younger children; folklorico is a type of traditional Mexican folk dance that emphasizes local folk culture and ballet characteristics.

Lopez and her sisters first started teaching and choreographing two years ago when Lopez’s previous dance instructor had to leave for college and passed on the baton to Lopez and her sisters. Lopez’s sisters choreograph the dances, and they teach the students together. 

“Sometimes, my sisters and I have a competition to see who can teach the moves the fastest, but it’s also a really great way for us to bond,” Lopez said.

Classes are every Monday at 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Lopez’s students’ ages range from 4 years old to 14 years old. They warm up for 20 minutes, review previous dances for one hour and learn new dances for 30 minutes.

“It’s pretty amazing to see even my youngest students be able to do the dance, because some of the steps are really hard,” Lopez said.

Lopez and her students usually practice weekly to perform several times throughout the year. On Nov. 2, Lopez and her students painted their faces and performed at a Día de Los Muertos celebration in a church in West Covina. They walked in with the priest and started the performance with the dance “Bruja,” which is about the collection of spirits.

“We usually perform at Día de Los Muertos celebrations every year as a way to honor the culture. It was a really exciting rush to be up there with them and see all of our work pay off,” Lopez said. “I’m always really proud of my students and have high hopes for them.”

Two years ago, Lopez and her students received a certificate from the City of Azusa for their service to the community. This year, they hope to win a worldwide Mexican folk dance competition.

“We’re training and practicing really hard every week. Folklorico gives me the opportunity to clearly understand the different cultures in the different regions of Mexico, like the way they dress and the way they express themselves while dancing,” Lopez said. “By passing this onto others, I feel like I can influence them about the importance of cultural awareness.”

By Irene Zhou, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Alanis Lopez