TAMIU Folklórico Director Teaches, Promotes Traditions

TAMIU's Ballet Folklórico Director
Teaches, Promotes Traditions

Back in 1996, Texas A&M International University's Gabriela Mendoza-García (photo) and six University students decided to form a group to preserve and help promote ballet folklórico. They started by rehearsing once a week outside the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library and performing in makeshift costumes. Today, the TAMIU Ballet Folklórico has the distinction of being the first performing group on campus before there were regular practice rooms, formal music and dance classes, professionally made costumes, or performances at Center for the Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) Recital Hall.

"I worked eight years as associate director for student development at TAMIU. While serving in this capacity in 1996, a few students approached me about starting a folklórico student organization," reminisced Mendoza-García, director of TAMIU's Ballet Folklórico. "I agreed to be their teacher and sponsor."

The group was run as a student organization for four years until Mendoza-García was asked to enable students to receive college credit for their participation by teaching it as part of a class. She agreed and has been doing it ever since. Two years ago, she decided to leave her administrative duties so she could concentrate on her family and teaching ballet folklórico.

"I am the founder and director of the TAMIU Ballet Folklórico. I teach folklórico dance classes to undergraduate students and I also teach folklórico children's classes, TAMIU Ballet Folklórico Juvenil as part of the department of fine and performing arts outreach program," explained Mendoza-García.

Mendoza-García doesn't just teach dance; she's shares her knowledge and experiences too. Her credentials include a masters in education from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin and 18 hours of graduate work in dance from Texas Women's University. She got her start dancing with the Ballet Folklórico de Laredo under the direction of Salvador Ibarra. While at UT Austin, she was a member of El Grupo de Danza de la Universidad de Tejas while under the direction of Michael Carmona. That was followed with a stint with a professional folklórico company, Roy Lozano's Ballet Folklórico de Tejas in Austin.

"I have been a member of the Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos (ANGF) conference since 2000. This is a national conference where maestros from Mexico teach all participants. I have also been elected to serve on the executive board of directors for ANGF and I have written three different articles on dance for Dance Teacher, a national magazine and I just completed an article on fund raising for Folklórico Magazine which will be published in July," added Mendoza-García.

"I have a passion for the art of folklórico. I love teaching students and watching them develop from beginning students to advanced performers. I admire the music and dance traditions from Mexico. We have an obligation to pass on the folklórico art form to others. These dances have been in existence for generations and have been passed on through oral dance traditions. We need to keep these dances alive so that they can be enjoyed for centuries," expressed Mendoza-García.

"When we first started there were very few folklórico groups in Laredo. Now, there exists a variety of elementary and community groups. With this increase comes the awareness and appreciation for the art form," said Mendoza-García.

TAMIU's Ballet Folklórico promotes the art with three big concerts a year. Every December, the group puts on Las Posadas that features the recreation of a traditional Mexican posada along with some dance performances. In January, the group hosts a folklórico workshop and festival which features performances by dance groups from all over Texas. Guest performers attend a weekend workshop on campus by noted folklórico teachers and later perform in the concert for the community.

"We also organize our Una Primavera Mexicana concert. This concert features the premier of a region/state of Mexico. Past states featured include Nuevo León, Jalisco, Veracruz, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Chiapas, Michoacán, Revolución, and Zacatecas," said Mendoza-García.

This year's Una Primavera Mexicana concert will feature dances from Puebla and will be held on May 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the CFPA Recital Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Mendoza-García at 326.2654 or e-mail gabym@tamiu.edu.

For more information on TAMIU's Ballet Folklórico please visit TAMIU Ballet Folklorico.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu