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Cinco de Mayo dancers make moves connected to Latin culture

By By Camille m. doty - CDOTY@VICAD.COM
May 7, 2011 at 12:07 a.m.

Alexandrea Soliz, left, 17, Elena Kees, 16, and Iesha Solis, 17, right, dance Saturday at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Riverside Park.

Cinco de Mayo Did you know?Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico's Independence Day

Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Zaragoza was born in Presidio de la Bahía del Espíritu Santo, which is now Goliad.

Mexican President Benito Juarez declared Cinco de Mayo a national holiday.

Source: Advocate Research

Nathaniel Garek, a sixth-grader, did a hip-hop dance at the Cinco de Mayo festival. The young African-American sees dance as a tool to unify a community.

"It's a Mexican heritage festival, but dance helps us be together, said the Stroman Middle School student.

Nathaniel's school dance group was one of several at the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Riverside Park on Saturday. The various styles of dance all had a connection to Latino culture.

Nathaniel was among the thousands who shared the Latino culture through music, through food and through dance at this year's fiesta.

Jalynn Cantu, another Stroman student, shared Garek's sentiment, but had a different link to the festivities.

"It makes me excited to dance because I get to celebrate my culture," she said.

The 14-year-old walked proudly with a perfectly coiffed bun, silk flowers and gold comb in her hair.

Jalynn's white, lacy dress was from Veracruz. She said it took her almost three hours to get in costume.

The first-year folklorico dancer admitted she had to make some adjustments to dance, "It's really hard but you get the hang of it," she said.

As she walked off the stage after her Jarocho dance, someone yelled, "You girls did pretty good."

Bashfully, she said "thank you."

Kade Gayle admired Jalynn and the other dancers from VISD folklorico group from a distance.

"They are princesses," said the smitten 2-year-old.

He even tried to dance with them in the audience.

Sheila Gayle, Kade's mother said, "He keeps telling how beautiful they are. He's fascinated."

The Gayles are not Mexican, but the mother wanted to expose her son to another culture. Kade's mother also learned from the experience.

"I didn't realize there was so much variety in the style of dress and dance," she said.

Elsa Garcia Pina, wanted her son to embrace dance. For years, her son Arturo performed traditional Mexican dance, but now he's evolved into hip-hop.

The 19-year-old Pina doesn't see the styles of dance as exact opposites. "It's a smooth transformation like A-to-Z," he said.

Elsa Pina, director of VISD Folklorico, said she also sees a connection and doesn't seem phased by his decision. "It's all good," she said.

Students can take the folklorico dance class for credit and get a good workout.

The Victoria YMCA Zumba class may be students, but they are not in school. They are learning to combine fitness with Latin flair.

"I have so much energy. I don't have stress anymore since taking the class," said Aurelia Perez. The two-year class veteran said she loves the Shakira moves, but she was a little nervous dancing in front of a big crowd.

Luckily, Perez had 24 other students backing her up on the stage for her first performance.

Zumba dance is Latino-style dance using salsa, merengue, reggaeton, and quebradita that mixes with fitness according to Rosalinsa Ramirez.

The class instructor said, "It's not really a workout, it's a party."

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