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Folkloric dance troupes thriving in Toledo


By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


Toledo and Northwest Ohio are blessed with the presence of two flourishing long-established dance groups, Ballet Folklorico Imagenes Mexicanas and El Corazón de México. 


Both troupes uphold the long heritage of outstanding Toledo-area based folkloric dance groups which dates back at least to 1971.

El Corazón de México

The Perrysburg-based Ballet Folklorico Imagenes Mexicanas has performed at a White House function for President Bill Clinton, entertained actor Edward James Olmos at his Stranahan Theatre appearance for the Junior League of Toledo, and more recently danced at the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.


 According to Anita Serda, the group’s booking and marketing manager, Ballet Folklorico Imagenes Mexicanas competed against twelve groups from Texas and Oklahoma to win the honor of performing at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas during Diversity Week.


They have also performed throughout Northwest Ohio, including appearances at the Willard Hispanic Diversity celebration, the Black Heritage Library & Multicultural Center in Findlay—where they performed two flood relief benefits for founder Nina Parker—and at venues in Defiance and Newark.


Serda says the group was formed 18 years ago. She has been affiliated with them for almost five years. “I became involved through my son James, who is now the group’s co-artistic director.  My son had an interest in dancing and had this opportunity to work with the dance group. I first saw them when they appeared at the annual festival sponsored by the Perrysburg Heights Community Association,” recalls Serda.


“The group just completed their Cinco de Mayo tour in which they performed 12 shows in 7 days. We have 67 performances on this year’s schedule, which is a lot when you remember there are only 52 weeks in the year. Early this summer we’ll be at the Toledo Botanical Garden, the Viva South celebration and at LatinoFest,” says Serda.


“During July we appear at retirement homes and senior citizen centers because we always like to give back to the community by doing community service,” adds Serda. “During August we begin to prepare for September and Hispanic Heritage Month. We have a lot of corporate bookings including one from Boeing. This is just such a great opportunity to represent Mexican culture.”


Serda explains that because the group travels by bus, van, and cars, they have a unique opportunity to see the country as well as interact with diverse groups of people


Raquel Rodríguez is the group’s co-artistic director, sharing responsibilities with James Serda. She has been studying business accounting at the University of Toledo for two years and works at the UT Federal Credit Union, “But other than school and work, dancing is everything else,” says Rodríguez.


 “I started dancing when I was two and joined the group when I was eight,” she adds.


“I believe it is very important to get our kids into culture and not have them wind up on the streets or on drugs. And I notice that the kids really want to learn about their culture.


“Imagenes Mexicanas isn’t just a group. It is family. And dancing isn’t just entertainment, it is a way of life,” says Rodríguez.


That sentiment was echoed by her co-artistic director James Serda. “The group is very family oriented. We have an open family environment,” says Serda, who turns 21 on the first of June.


Anita Serda says there are 35 active dancers in the group (out of a total of 38 members) all between the ages of four and 24.

Here is the roster:  Rebecca Aguilar-Torres, Danali Ayala, Erica Duarte, Juan Duarte, Saul Duarte, Lia Estrada, Ethan Little, Alicianna García,  Federico Garza,  Marisa Gonzalez,  Ruben González, Angelina Guillen, Araceli Hernández, Elecia Hickman , Miguel Martínez II ,Danielle Miranda, Sarah Miranda, Catalina Montoya,  Cierra Myers, Dorian Myers II, Antonio Oviedo, Raquel Rodriguez, Vanessa Rodríguez,  Marisol Sánchez, Analicia Bautista-Santos, James Serda, Ashley Simmons,  Cecillia Stamper, Christopher Torres, Graciella Torres and  Marivell Torres.

Folkloric Dancer


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.





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