After-school program teaches folklorico dance

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Jessica Lopez and her partner Alejandro Chacon twirl and twist to folklorico music at La Casita Elementary School’s Folklorico Dance Club.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Entering Christy Van Hoose’s classroom after 3 p.m. on a folklorico day is like walking into a crowded dance club.

The students twirl and laugh their way across the empty space made by moving desks to the walls. The students that sit around the improv dance floor chat and watch the dancers, waiting for their turn.

Van Hoose teaches folklorico dance to La Casita Elementary students as part of the national after-school program. Students need to keep their grades up to stay in the class.

Van Hoose said the dance class helps the students with self-esteem issues, learn self-discipline and responsibility.

“It’s a nice way to motivate students to do well in school,” she said over the folklorico music tripping and dancing out of a small stereo in the middle of the room. “It helps them keep up their grades and they have to be disciplined to actually learn the dances.”

The students have traveled as far as Santa Fe to perform.

“They love to perform,” the teacher said. “If they could go every week to perform, they’d be happy campers.”

The class’ next performance will be Dec. 15 at the Friendship Senior Center.

Alejandro Chacon, 10, said the class is fun.

“We get to go places,” he said. “My favorite song is ‘Evangelinas.’ We stomp and shake and make noise.”

Chacon said performing in front of a crowd makes him nervous, but he likes to do it anyway.

“Sometimes it makes me nervous to see all those people and to hear them clapping,” he said.

Jessica Lopez, 11, is in the folklorico class for the second time.

“I make sure I have good grades so I can dance,” she said.

At the beginning of the program, not even Van Hoose knew how to dance folklorico. Dancers from Roswell came to Clovis for a workshop, and VanHoose used those skills to teach the students.

“I’ve taught them from scratch. None of the kids danced folklorico until this class,” she said. “But if you’ve got rhythm, you can dance to any kind of music.”

While the incentive to dance keeps the students in check with their grades, the class also teaches the students to respect each other and work together.

“They need to work as a cohesive team. It’s like a football team. If you’ve got a few people not learning the plays, it throws everyone off.”