Four months after their second successful Canadian tour in four years, the ballet folklórico dancers of Casa Hogar Los Angelitos (CHLA) returned to the stage for an entirely new and colorful presentation of dance from six countries.
The occasion for the debut performance of the new program was the annual benefit dinner and auction held on Thursday, January 25 at the Manzanillo open air pavilion, the Casino de la Feria, to raise funds that support CHLA. Presently housing some 75 young people from 3 to 23 years of age, it provides a residential home that offers education in a supportive and nurturing environment.
A special feature of the complete program at Casa Hogar Los Angelitos is the opportunity for its residents to participate in an Expressive Arts program. The ballet folklórico dance component is popular with all the children. “Any of them can participate if they want to,” says founder Nancy Nystrom. “They don’t have to audition to participate, but they have to be prepared for the discipline it takes and attend practice and rehearsals, and stay in school.” Nancy points out that the ballet folklórico has benefits beyond learning to dance. She says, “This type of program gives young people a sense of confidence, self discipline and focus that enables them to be successful in other educational endeavors.” The full participation of all children is an obvious indicator of the program’s popularity and success!
Instead of a purely Mexican display of traditional dances, the January 25 event began with an array of Mexican dances, then continued with fancy footwork from five more countries. Over 60 items were available for bidding in a silent auction before dinner and, when guests were seated, the dance numbers alternated with items in the live auction that opened the wallets and purses of generous bidders.
A dance from Columbia brought by African slaves in the 1700s was followed by a Greek dance to well-known music from the movie, Zorba the Greek, a tune known by all. From Spain came the Flamenco, with its swirling skirts and a change of pace fol-lowed with a Parisienne waltz from France. Final performance brought the footwork of Irish dancing to the stage.
The new dances required new costumes as well as the dancers having to learn new steps. Their mastery of new numbers and the precision with which they were performed are a credit to their hard work and rehearsals. Likewise, credit is due to the dedicated and skillful instructors, Ballet Folklórico Los Angelitos director Gisela Marisol González and assistant director Jorge Rodrigo Meza.
Providing a safe and loving environment for youngsters who come from homes unable to support and raise them, from broken, abusive or unsafe situations, or for children who are orphans, Casa Hogar Los Angelitos has been serving the Manzanillo area since its foundation in 1995 as a non-profit operation. Following the Thursday fund raising dinner and auction, an open house at the residential facility in Salahua welcomed guests. Speaking to the assembled visitors, Nancy Nystrom and staff members described the work done by CHLA and recounted some of the success stories of young people who have grown up there.
A dance program of three numbers the Parisienne waltz, the Greek dance and the Irish number concluded the formal pro-gram. A pozole dinner was then served to appreciative visitors who gained an understanding of the community service provided by Casa Hogar Los Angelitos. For dessert, special cake was served to celebrate the Quinceañera, the fifteenth birthday of two girls, Gaby and Bianca, who had reached that important milestone in the life of Hispanic girls.
Although the Canadian tour to five cities in Alberta in 2017 was hard work on a busy schedule, participants had time for special events of their own that broadened their understanding of Canada and other cultures, as well as sharing their traditions with their hosts. One highlight was visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum near Drumheller, Alberta, an hour and a half from Calgary. The splendid museum is one of the world’s top dinosaur museums, located in the province where dinosaur discoveries have been abundant.
Another special occasion was dinner at the New Asian Village Restaurant in Sherwood Park, adjacent to Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton. The kids enjoyed a special dinner of Indian food, then had opportunity to learn some steps of Asian dancing from Ashley Kumar of the South Asian Arts Movement Society.
While participation in the ballet folklórico program and per-forming on tour add to the education of children at CHLA, support for learning does not end with graduation from high school.
Casa Hogar is now seeing success of children who have lived there and continue with post-secondary education. Three are now college graduates, one more will graduate this summer, and five others are studying at university. “It is exciting to have children dreaming about college!” says Melanie Kolb. “Donations to Casa Hogar Los Angelitos and The Children’s Foundation cover all costs for students to attend university or trade school. We do not receive any help through scholarships, but rely totally on the generous hearts of our donors.”
To learn more, and to support Casa Hogar and invest in the education of deserving young people, visit the web site of the parent organization, The Children’s Foundation International, based in Loveland, Colorado. See: https://www.tcfcares.org.