More than Just a Dance Team

Traditional Mexican dance brings community of diverse students together despite hardships

Jullian Ramirez

Kylie Baber-Gonzalez and Angie Black

The ballet folklorico team and its

members not only represent Hispanic

culture, but they represent the diversity

throughout the school. Yet, the program

currently remains with no booster club

and little to no outside funding.

“We really get no money, so we have fundraisers

throughout the year to try and raise some,” senior

captain Ashley Villareal said. “We will take gigs at

middle schools and elementary schools, and really

anything to help support us.”

It takes approximately $13,000 to keep up

with regular maintenance, costume upkeep, and

transportation to different events over the course of a

year.

Senior general lieutenant and costume mistress

Crystal Silvas, says that performing outside of school

is one of the ways the program gets the money it

needs to perform at competition.

“I don’t think like the school really sees us as like,

let’s say the Red Jackets or like, as a representative

team,” Silvas said. “We have so much diversity and

this is one thing that reinforces that because of the

Hispanic culture. We’re embracing it here, yet [the

district] is giving us nothing.”

New costumes can cost up to hundreds of dollars

if bought in America. AVID, ESL and Ballet Folklorico

director Maura Masters travels to Mexico City to get

costumes and accessories at cheaper prices.

“We receive a budget of zero dollars from the

school and zero dollars from the district,” Masters

said. “The Austin High community could support us

by coming to our performances and by participating

in our fundraisers.”

Last year, in addition to selling t-shirts and candles

as their annual fundraisers, ballet folklorico received

a Senate Proclamation sponsored by Senator Kirk

Watson. It was passed by the Texas Senate in honor of

the 15th anniversary of their “rebirth.”

“With proper funding, we could be a thing,”

Villareal said. “It’s weird because we, as a school,

pride ourselves on being more diverse and everything,

but we really don’t get any recognition for it,” Villareal

said.

In an effort to refrain from buying new costumes

or accessories, Masters sews tears and makes all the

hairpieces for competitions.

“As for me, my job is to help to make hairpieces

for the new girls,” Silvas said. “Masters does that

a lot, and it’s very DIY in a way. [However], when

a competition comes and we try to do things

professionally, try to get authentic stuff because that’s

something the coaches and judges can take points off

for during competition, but that stuff costs money.”

Ballet Folklorico competes in Round Rock and

Lubbock and have won first, second, and third place.

Any wins and accomplishments are recognized on the

Folklorico Maroons Facebook page.

“[Masters] has a small car so we have to get a

rental car [for competition],” Villareal said. “On top

of that our choreographer needs space along with

any parent volunteers that we get. We also have

competition fees because it costs a certain amount of

money per entry.”

According to Villareal and Silvas, this feeling of

crampedness in the cars also translates to the closet

where the costumes are stored.

“Everything’s cramped in there because we have a

lot of dresses,” Villareal said. “We have to get dressed

in the hallway and that’s so inconvenient to because

people will walk by trying to go places.”

They currently practice in the cafeteria and

sometimes share the space with P.E coaches who

can’t take their students outside due to scheduling or

weather.

“I feel like we don’t have our own space or

privacy,” Silvas said. “[The school] is trying to make

room for us, but not treating us like a priority.”

On the floor of the cafeteria, the team places a

portable 32-by-32 foot dance floor to practice on.

According to Masters, the floor is “like a waffle”

underneath in order to absorb the shock of dance

steps. The portable floor’s folds are currently kept

intact with duct tape.

“Initially, we rehearsed directly on the cafeteria

floor,” Masters said. “But kids were developing knee

issues, so the floor was purchased to protect our

dancers.”

The practice area, however, is not the same size

as competition floors. So, Masters has her competition

team rehearse in the dance room on Saturdays.

Competition rehearsal lasts for about three months,

but according to Masters, the dance season never

ends.

“Our ‘season’ starts about 90 minutes after our

season ends,” Masters said. “Following the dance

portion of our final exam,”… “we get to work with

budget decisions, dance corps, building decisions and

a creative decision map for the next school year.”

Dance officers come to school during the summer

for a week of training, which includes work with the

costume inventory, repertoire review, and training in

how to instruct new dancers.

“Officers also sit in on business meetings and

make budget priority decisions and assist in casting

and the choreography of smaller, private gigs,”

Masters said. “They learn management, teaching and

financial skills that can help them in college and in

careers beyond ballet folklorico.”

According to Masters, students have improved

their grades in order to audition for competition

teams, have learned to believe in themselves enough

to apply to colleges, and have even stopped from

dropping out because of ballet folklorico.

“I want them to be respected for the work that

they do and how well they represent the school in

the community,” Masters said. “We have to trust

each other, we have to believe in each other, we have

to care about each other and about all the dancers

because, in the end, we all have a job to do to get

our performances on stage. It is like a game of Jenga

and pulling out any block could topple the tower. We

support each other.”