Their bright-colored skirts illuminate imagination as the dancers gracefully perform their carefully practiced performances.
Since their beginnings in 1987, Ballet Folklorio de UCR hve become an essential element of the university ecosystem, bringing awareness to the community at large about Mexican and Indigenous dance culture. However, the conditions by which these dances have come to fruition have been anything but reflective of the Tartan Soul values of integrity, accountability, excellence and respect.
Left without a physical space to practice on campus, the dancers spend hours rehearsing in frigid temperatures. What’s more, the surface is cement, causing the students to suffer physical damage to their legs and the costumes to become damaged. Given that the shoes required to perform such intricate footwork tend to be very sensitive to tear and expensive to replace, practicing on the cement causes catalyzed wear and tear, bringing a financial burden to the students who want to participate.
In response, UCR students Estefani Munive, Andres Medrano, Elias Serma and Juan Rios organized an online petition to draw in members of the Highlander community to gain support for a space to practice on campus. Since its launch in early April, the petition has gained 1,008 supporters for the initiative.
When asked about the history behind the issue, Munive responded, saying, “This has been a recurring issue. Our previous president, Celeste Gil, and professor Juan Rios have already met with Sandoval and other administration to resolve this issue about two-three years ago, but nothing was done.”
By building relationships with other ballet folklorio dancers across the UC, CSU and private schools, as well as bringing awareness on campus, the petition has proven to be a success in starting the conversation about the need for a physical space on campus. Given that the university books the organization to perform for Highlander Day, Discovery Day, and other major campus events that demonstrate the diversity of the school, the petition calls the university administration to practice what they preach by providing for students of color.
What’s more, participating in an activity like ballet folklorio gives students a safe space to find friends, celebrate their culture, and learn new skills.
“We are not only promoting diversity,” Munive says. “We are also retaining students and giving them a family away from home.”
Although university administration insists that there is no space, one thing remains certain: the Ballet Folklorio de UCR is not giving up anytime soon.