The Riverbank Library had quite the crowd for the annual celebration of El día de los niños/El día de los libros which means Children’s Day and Book Day. Saturday afternoon, April 28, was cool with sunshine, puffy clouds and some wind which set the tone for the guests that were gathered in the front of the library. The national celebration brings a focus to literacy for children of all cultural backgrounds and encourages families to read together.
Kicking off the celebration for the ninth year in a row was Ballet Folklorico Viva Mexico led by Artistic Directors Norma Torres-Manriquez and Courtney Floyd. There were three performances by three groups that included intermediate dancers and a few beginners.
“I just love it,” stated Floyd. “I went to the dual immersion program at Rio Altura which is now RLA and my parents thought it would be the perfect cultural complement to my learning the Spanish language. I just think it is really pretty, really fun, I love the steps, I love the dancing so I am still here. I am learning a whole lot more about the instructor side than I thought I was going to.”
For the first time they performed Chiapas and the piece was called Las Chiapanecas. This was a first for Floyd as well who has been dancing since she was six and was a former student of Manriquez. This September, Floyd will be dancing Ballet Folklorico for 18 years and is currently the Instructor for the classes that are held every Monday evening with assistance from Manriquez. The song had a familiar tune to many in the crowd that joined in with a clap at the right time.
“I am a bit more critical (about the performance), explained Manriquez. “We love this little performance because it is so intimate. They are right next to their parents and so for a lot of the children this will be their first performance they do. It is always less intimidating than to be on a stage with everybody farther away.”
The weekly Monday night classes are held at the Riverbank Community Center at 5:45 p.m. for beginners and 6:30 p.m. for advanced students.
The second group that ranged from ages four to nine did a dance from the Northern State of Mexico called Nuevo Leon.
The third performance was from a group of five that were from ages 10 to 14 and they did Sinaloa which is a coastal state in Mexico.
“I think they did well,” said Floyd. “They have been learning these states for a couple months now. We practiced walking on and off stage. They all performed well and smiled really well and seemed to have fun. So I am proud of them.”
The dancers have colorful dresses that are very specific to the area of Mexico they are dancing for like the shorter dresses for the Nuevo Leon performance which is in the Northern part of Mexico that borders the state of Texas. The young ladies wearing the lighter colored dresses with the shoulder off to the side was for Sinaloa which is a coastal state so they are wavier and have some African influences.
“Do we still have work to do, yes, always but I think the idea is for them to come out and have fun,” added Manriquez of the Folklorico performers. “We count it as a victory if they don’t run out crying. The idea is for them to learn some of their culture, some of their roots and as dancers sometimes we don’t go right when we are supposed to go left. But we can work on that. As long as they are not crying and running off they are doing good.”
The celebration continued with a bilingual story time in the library that included puppets and an interactive singalong that got the audience on their feet. They also had a book giveaway and crafts set up to help the kids attending the festivities learn and have fun at the same time.