Roslynn Beighton spent nine months teaching English at University Escuela Normal Superior in the city of Toluca, Estado de México. In Mexico she learned the country’s ballet folklórico.
Ballet folklórico is an important part of Mexican culture
While I was teaching in Mexico I took the opportunity to embrace dance. I learned several dance styles including salsa, cumbia, bachata, banda and even a little rockabilly. But my favourite dance experience was joining my university's folkloric dance club and learning Mexican ballet folklórico.
Ballet folklórico attracted me because it is an important part of Mexican identity, encompassing each Mexican region's traditional dance. The dance is influenced by indigenous folklore and dance from Europe and Africa. It was a chance for me to experience the dances that represent the many cultures found in Mexico.
Dance classes were hard work but I enjoyed rehearsing with my students
My tutor’s wife, Marichuy, leant me her dress and dance shoes for the year. I practiced twice a week in two-hour classes with my students. My teacher Hugo had been dancing since he was a toddler. His passion and love of folklore was obvious.
Hugo worked us hard and would make us do sit ups when we were off rhythm with the zapateados or forgot the dance steps. The classes were exciting and I enjoyed rehearsing with my students.
At first it wasn’t easy to grasp the dance class instructions in Spanish
At first I struggled to understand all the teacher’s instructions in the language I was learning, but I soon picked it up. The class always helped me and made sure I felt included. It was also a great exercise regime; the dances can be fast-paced and you need to be ready for a million spins!
Would you like to receive more articles like this? Sign up for our monthly newsletter.
Traditional Mexican dance costume was the best part of performing
I took part in several shows at the university. For me, the best part was wearing traditional dance costume. There are many styles of dress for ballet folklórico.
My usual costume was a bright pink, floor length skirt with ruffles that fanned out (which added a lot of weight). I wore it with a traditional white lace blouse tucked into the skirt. The outfit was completed with gold hoop earrings and a lot of make-up.
Marichuy taught me how to make my own hair pieces. We made two thick plaits out of black wool, interwoven with pink and yellow ribbons to match the dress. I brought these back home at the end of the year, with the hope that I’ll have the chance to dance folklore again.
My dance partner wore traditional mariachi as a charro (a cowboy originating in the central regions). This costume included a silk tie, plaid shirt, jeans and a wide-brimmed sombrero. The more formal costume is a smart shirt and bolero jacket, and embroidered trousers.