Ballet Folklorico Imágenes Mexicanas is a project of the Perrysburg Heights Community Association. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 612, Perrysburg, OH 43552-0612.
Elaina Hernández of El Corazón de México dance troupe is the daughter of the legendary Ray Soto. The name of the group translates in English to ‘The Heart of México.’
“I started the group in 1996 when I was 15,” recalls Hernández, who has been dancing for 23 years—since she was six.
She directed the group with her sister, Ann Marie Soto, now a law student at the University of Washington in Washington State where she operates her own troupe, Bailadores de Bronce.
Hernández has studied under Maestro Carlos Vega of México, director Sam Córtez of Chicago and instructor Rene Cardoza of Chicago. She has been directing and choreographing for more than 14 years.
“There were only eight members when we started. The group has now grown to include 25 active members, although there are more than 30 members. We have had as many as 40 active members. When they get older and go to college, they move on. But we have had some dancers from grade school through college. There were some who started when they were 3 and are now 19,” says Hernández, who fondly refers to “my guys – the three older guys who have been with me for a long time.”
Hernández says the group’s most exciting appearance was at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida on December 27, 2007.
“We had a lot of community support for that engagement. In order to go to Disney World we had to hold a fundraiser to get the money for a bus. We raised $17,000,” says Hernández.
“The show was a whirlwind of adventure,” says Hernández. “We arrived one hour before the performance and we had to get through the post-Christmas holiday crowd.
“The kids really worked hard. All the kids paid $100 to go on the trip, but they got the money back when were there to use for spending money.
“We were invited to return, but we’re going to wait a little longer. That way the younger kids will be older, and hopefully the economy will not be so bad,” says Hernández.
She says the group is hoping to dance at this year’s LatinoFest (June 13, 2009) and at the Columbus Hispanic Festival, and will be at the SS. Peter and Paul Festival in August. They will also be performing at the Latino Scholarship Day with the Toledo Mud Hens on July 26, 2009, which is sponsored by La Prensa and the Spanish American Organization.
“We are always accepting new members,” says Hernández, “You don’t have to be Hispanic or even Mexican to be a member. Three of our kids aren’t Hispanic, some are half. One of our dancers, France Fu, is from Hong Kong and is a professional instructor for the Toledo Ballet.
“We are trying to educate Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike. Our dancers learn about the culture of all of México’s 32 states. Some of them discover their rich family heritage and tell me things like ‘my grandmother used to dance’ and ‘I am very proud of who I am.’ They do not have to be the stereotypical Mexican-American. They can do it through the dancing.
“I make a strong effort for the kids to know that they succeed, and I promote education. After all, they’re my kids. And I’m proud of them, I love to tell people that ‘my kid did this.’
“It is not just about dancing. I don’t get paid. You have to love it to do it,” says Hernández.
Here is the roster of their members:
Elaina Hernández, Vanessa Hernández, Marisela Leroux, Lawrencia Leroux, Anthony Durán, Diego Durán, Hugo Ramírez, Katie Vargas, Vincent Vargas, Gabby Espinoza, Justice Gilberston, Marcus Flynn, Sarah Ferguson, Elijah Vásquez, Angelica Beltrán, Araceli Balderas, Nalleli Balderas, Aleah Ramírez, Christian Ramírez, Corin Huerta, Jessica Yglesicas, and, from Hong Kong, France Fu.
For more information, visit their Web site at www.elCorazóndeMéxicodance.com or contact Raymond or Christine Soto at 419.242.7071. You can also write them at 435 Segur Avenue, Toledo, OH 43609.
Toledo’s first Mexican folkloric dance group was Recuerdos de Mi Tierra, founded in 1971 by Bob Martínez. The group continued until 1995, says Martínez, who adds that he plans to start it up again.
His niece, Lulu Perales, spun off another group, Los Charros del Norte, “around 1983” says Martinez, “which performed for about 12 years.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series on folkloric dance troupes in Ohio and Michigan. The troupes mentioned above are Mexican folkloric dance groups but the majority of Latino countries have such groups. If you are connected with a troupe and would like to have them included in this series, please contact the editor at La Prensa.