Folk dancing group in Southwest Detroit helps preserve, celebrate Mexican culture

Posted at 6:56 AM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 09:01:13-04

(WXYZ) — 7 Action News is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month this year by bringing you weekly stories that explore the culture, customs and traditions of Hispanic people.

In Southwest Detroit, a Mexican folk dancing group has been making waves in the community for more than 16 years. COVID-19 derailed their performances temporarily, but now they're back entertaining and educating audiences across metro Detroit.

There's a dance that's called Jopala with sashes draped across each dancer's chest to pay homage to its origins in Puebla, Mexico.

"Ballet Folklorico Mexicano, Mexican folk dance, it means a lot to me especially being further from the border, further from Mexico, it gave me a sense of being," said Ofelia Torres, a dancer.

Torres is a proud Mexican-American Detroiter. She learned how to dance when she was still in diapers and could never quite kick the habit.

"People who haven't seen me will say, 'are you still dancing; yes I am still dancing' ... I always say as long as I have my legs and my breath I'll be dancing," she said.

Jamie Carillo, lead instructor for Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel, says "Ofelia that dances with us, she's been dancing with me since she was like 8-9 years old."

The name, Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel, comes from the Aztecan language Nahuatl and translates to the one who created himself unique.

"We are born with a gift, everyone, all of us, so I think its a gift that we have that was given to us to be able to do this," said Jamie.

Every performance he puts on is accompanied by a history lesson; he says there is no sense in dancing without first providing context.

"A lot of people don't consider us Americans but we are we were some of the first people in this continent I'm just very proud you know being proud from here being able to share our histories," said Jamie.

History hasn't always been kind to Mexico, but through dance and music these dancers celebrate its resiliency.

"People only associate us with certain things and sometimes it's negative but we have so much culture so much color and so much beauty in Mexico and the way we represent that is through dancing," said Ofelia.