Eleven years ago, Mount Ogden Junior High students wanted both a sense of belonging and to learn more about their traditions, roots and culture. The Mexican Ballet was created, and it followed those same students to Ogden High School.
Six years ago, students noticed there was nothing like the Mexican ballet at Weber State University. The WSU Ballet Folklórico was then born.
“Since that time, we’ve tried to provide more opportunities for people from other countries,” said Mónica Rodríguez Mesa, Ballet Folklórico advisor and original member. “We do Mexico yes, but we also have other countries like Colombia, Peru and sometimes Chile included in the ballet.”
The ballet also provides students with more than just dancing; they learn leadership skills, communication skills, mentoring and advising, according to the WSU Ballet Folklórico website.
Leticia Mata, a nursing student, has been involved with the ballet since the very beginning. She said the ballet helps her feel closer to home.
“You often don’t see Folklore dances all the time, unlike when I’m back in my country,” Mata said. “It’s nice to see that we can teach others with our culture and who we are. Hopefully, we change people’s view of the Hispanic community.”
In March, the ballet suffered the effects of COVID-19. Many of its events were canceled. Rosa Rodriguez, Ballet Folklórico secretary, said the group continued to meet virtually as much as they could throughout the rest of spring semester, but the sense of connection wasn’t quite there.
“A lot of people said they started to feel discouraged because we couldn’t meet face to face,” Rodriguez said. “For a lot of our members, the ballet is a safe haven where they feel comfortable expressing and being themselves.”
The pandemic has heavily affected the Hispanic community, and, as a result, the ballet lost some of its members. Rodríguez Mesa said that some of the students had to pick up second or third jobs to help their families, and some chose to stay away as a precaution for protecting high-risk family members.
In fall semester, the ballet has continued to meet virtually. However, they recently started a petition to meet face to face. The petition was approved and, following CDC guidelines, the group was able to meet again on Oct. 13.
“I’m actually very excited to be out here again and have one-on-one practicing,” Mata said. “We’re taking the protocols seriously, we’re wearing our masks, hand sanitizing and maintaining our distance.”
Salvador Ceja-Monroy, a political science major who has been a member of the ballet for three years, said now that the ballet is back to meeting in person, he is most looking forward to practices.
“Practicing through Zoom was hard; I think through Zoom, a lot of members lost their motivation and in person we can keep each other accountable,” Ceja-Monroy said.
Maria Vasquez, a double major student in Spanish Translation and Public Health who has been a member of the ballet for four years, said she is looking forward to learning different dances and getting back into a normal routine.
“I think people have this idea that we just get up and dance, and that we have big dresses and big makeup because of what people see on stage, but it goes beyond that,” Vasquez said. “It’s hours and weeks of practicing and dedication. Most of us don’t have a professional dancing background — we do this because it’s what we love and we’re passionate about it. We put our heart and soul into this.”
Members of the ballet agree that you don’t have to be Hispanic to participate in the ballet.
“The ballet is open to everyone who is willing to learn and participate,” Rodriguez said. “My vision for the ballet is that we continue to add different cultures so that it’s not just the Mexican culture being represented.”