The True Story Behind My Own Ballet Folklorico Experience

The other day, a while ago, I wrote about how we forced Edgar into ballet folkclorico when he told us he didn’t speak Spanish.  So many of you were so supportive about our decision to register him in that class and our efforts to familiarize him with his roots, including the Spanish language.  What I failed to tell you about in that post was my own experience with this traditional Mexican performance art.

I would have been Pedro in this picture.

No, it wasn’t about discovering my own roots.  It wasn’t even about my own love for dance, which after this experience I discovered was more platonic than anything else.  Instead, it was all about, of all things, meeting a girl.

There wasn’t really one in particular.  Any one of the hundreds that attended my high school at that point would have suited me just fine.  You see, the best way to describe my dating skills at this point in my life, about the ninth grade, is to say that they were pretty disgraceful.  I’d rarely ever declared my admiration for any of the girls I had crushes on, and all of the ones who had been subjected to these awkward confessions from me had shot me down almost immediately.  “I don’t see you that way.  I like you as a friend,” was their usual response and so I’d decided ballet folklorico would give me that extra oomph that would make me more interesting to the opposite sex.

I had already given soccer a try earlier that year.  As soon as we had started the warm up laps around the field, though, I knew my heavy panting meant this definitely was not for me.  That, and the fact that I hadn’t a clue what the rules of the game were made me decide never to come back again after tryouts.  ROTC was easier, but none of the girls in my class were interested in dating at all.  If they were, it clearly was not with me.  I figured in ballet folklorico since most of the girls in the class were Hispanic too we’d at least have that in common as a conversation starter.

My buddy who will call Ramon for the sake of this post, on the other hand, had a very specific reason for signing up with me for this extra curricular activity.  Her name was Laura and she was Panamanian, with big brown eyes, short wavy brown hair, a slender figure she knew exactly how to move for every single style of dance from salsa to merengue.  The pair of us would stand there just watching her in amazement, mesmerized by her beauty, wondering how so much charisma and life could fit into such a small frame of a woman.  To us she was all woman.  Not another girl from the school at all. Like most of the other guys in the class we mistook her natural friendliness for flirtation.

“I think she likes you Ramon.  I mean, she touched your arm”, I clearly remember telling my equally hopeless friend.

He was about half my size in weight and was able to much more easily grasp all of the routines in the performance set.  At 180 pounds, I could barely keep up.  Nevertheless, I decided to stick it out and eventually figured that if it didn’t help me score a date at least the exercise might help me get into better shape.  Every day after school, after about an hour of zapateadas, this way and then that way, and then all over again, I’d emerge out of the dance hall drenched in sweat from head to toe, red as a tomato from the face, and panting just as hard as if I’d been running those laps around the soccer field.  The only advantage here was that we were inside.

To my own credit, though, I’ll say it myself since probably nobody else would, despite the exhaustively punishing workouts I managed to stay in ballet folklorico for about a month.  By the 31st day it was obvious Laura had no interest in either one of us, I was clearly not as good at dancing as I had originally thought, and the sweat-drenched warm ups and tee shirts were definitely not making me any more appealing to anyone.  Ramon decided to stay.  I wished him good luck and retired to the much more fruitful evenings at home watching telenovelas with my parents.

All of this came back to memory when Edgar told us he no longer wanted to be in ballet folklorico and instead wanted to join his school choir.  How could I disagree?  I knew from those 30 days of deep sweat that performing in such routines was no easy feat.

I just shook my head in agreement.

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