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Mary and Joseph find a place with Folklorico

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Christina Stock Photo The rehearsals of the Folklorico dancers are a full-body workout that require agility and stamina.

Roswell Folklorico to perform holiday show

By Christina Stock Vision Editor

The Roswell Folklorico will present its annual holiday show on Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. at the Roswell Adult & Recreation Center, 807 N. Missouri Ave. The event is free of charge.

Some of the favorite dances of the regions of Mexico will be performed, such as from Michoacan, Chiapas, Veracruz, Chihuahua and Jalisco. There will also be surprises.

Seeing the members of Folklorico perform is one of the highlights during the year, and especially so during the holidays. This year, director Frank Herrera has something special planned.

“We are going to do a posada with my babies,” he said. A posada is a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a lodging in Bethlehem, performed just before Christmas.

“I have already selected a Mary and a Joseph and townspeople,” Herrera said. “They are going through the village asking for a place to stay and they turn them down and they look so sad. I told them when they say no, just put your head down and go to the next, then finally somebody shows them to the barn.

“From that point on they are sitting there and we start the show. We are doing a dance I’ve only done one time in my 25 years and it was also a specialty dance we did in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s beautiful, because it’s done in the language of the Aztec,” Herrera said.

Herrera, a former Eastern New Mexico University student and retired Roswell teacher, puts on several shows a year with his diverse group of dance enthusiasts. Herrera’s students range in age from 4 to 80 and up. The group travels to competitions throughout the year and performs at festivals around town.

“I’ve been teaching Folklorico for 47 years,” Herrera said. “I’ve been teaching in Roswell for almost 30 years. I got my start in Hondo. They’ve got a big celebration every year in May. It started back in the late ‘40s. Of course, I was not dancing then, but that’s when it started. My parents were both involved in that very first performance. I was dancing in the early to mid-‘70s and I enjoyed it so much that I said, this is something I want to do all the time. I went to college and started a group at Eastern in Portales and we performed as often as we could. We were able to get grants to get costumes. They are beautiful and so delicate. We have to be so careful — one particular — it’s hand-embroidered. I only use that costume (with Roswell Folklorico) only once or twice a year because they snag so easily. Some of my costumes I have made locally. I have a lady who does our costumes, but some we can’t because to be authentic you got to do it the right way, like the hand-embroidered one, which we ordered from the state in Mexico where the dance originates.”

Of the 70 dancers 20 will perform for the first time at the holiday show. “They will do fine. They get excited when they get to put on their costumes, make up and their hair and the earrings,” Herrera said.

The dances of Mexico have roots in European dances, but also native Aztec are represented. It has been close to 10 years since Folklorico performed an Aztec dance.

“I am ready to bring it back,” Herrera said. “People loved it. It’s colorful, it’s very different from the native dances of New Mexico, although I love those too, but these are more flashy. We use a lot of metallics. We are doing three new dances of the Aztec region and we do the popular ones like Jalisco, Veracruz, Chiapas, Chihuahua — all these different regions, that’s what makes Folklorica so much fun because you never get bored. It’s not the same thing. I guess because the costumes of Mexico are so varied.”

Another dance comes from Veracruz. “La Bruja means witch, but a lot of people don’t know that back in the day before electricity the women would, at nighttime — when the kids were asleep — work in the fields and to see what they were doing, they would wear these containers on their heads with fire, so they could see what they were doing. These containers were called Bruja. We dance it with a candle, but we don’t use real candles anymore. We had one time a girl adjusting her candle before going on stage and her shawl’s fringe caught on fire. I put out the fire with my hands. After that we use battery operated candles,” Herrera said. “I use black light to emphasize the white organza dresses. It is beautiful. We don’t do it every year because I want it to be a special dance that people appreciate.

“There are some dances that are quite different and that is what makes it nice.”

Some of Herrera’s younger dancers play football. “I have two boys that play football and dance,” he said. “They were able to work it out. Coach has worked with them and coach said that those are some of his better students because they have their coordination; they have that ability to do lateral movements, because a lot of our warm ups and dances require side to side instead of front and back — we do both. You hear about professionals that take yoga and ballet for that reason. Coaches know that makes them more agile, more flexible. I had one on the Football State Championship Team, the one that just won this last weekend. Mariano Salinas and he loves it. He has done a good job. He and his sister joined several years ago. He dropped out for football, but then realized that this helped so he came back and is doing wonderful. He had an injury playing football so he had to cut back a little bit, but he said, ‘In January I am going back full force.’”

Herrera accepts new students at the beginning of each school year. For information on this show or to become a student, call Herrera at 575-624-2724.