SOLANA BEACH — More than a dozen residents of Eden Gardens from youngsters to adults have formed a ballet folklórico dance troupe that will make its debut at 10:30 a.m. on May 21 at Fiesta del Sol.
“We are very excited about this newest community resource collaboration project … to revitalize our Latino culture,” said Manny Aguilar, president of the La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation.
“It all started with our community needs assessment,” his wife, Mary Ann, added.
The foundation was created in 2010 to provide educational and other resources for residents in general and youngsters in particular in the historic, primarily Hispanic neighborhood.
In 2014 the nonprofit organization partnered with the National Latino Resource Center and California State University San Marcos to analyze community needs.
“There were three categories,” Manny Aguilar said. “One of them was civic and cultural involvement. People kept asking for programs to help their children participate in programs that were other than educational.”
“They wanted to keep their culture alive,” Mary Ann Aguilar said.
Irene de Watteville, a 43-year Solana Beach resident, said she knew Encinitas had a ballet folklórico troupe.
“I wanted to see if kids from Solana Beach could go there,” she said. “But I thought it would be nicer if we had a group here.”
With help from a few other residents and foundation members, including the late Jim Nelson, Diane Hardison and dance instructor Elba Montes, classes started with a handful of students in January.
Through word-of-mouth attendance grew to 16 dancers who range in age from 5 to 40-something. While most participants are female there is one young boy.
Ballet folklórico features dances, music and costumes that reflect the different regions of Mexico.
“It’s really important to bring the educational component,” Mary Ann Aguilar said. “It will improve the group.”
She said there are plans to bring in instructors to teach participants the meaning of the costumes and show parents how to braid the girls’ hair with traditional ribbons.
The cost is $5 for each two-hour class but no one is ever turned away, Aguilar said.
“This is affordable,” she added “No kid who wants to participate should have to worry about money. We have scholarships.”
Initial funding for the program was provided by The Synergy Cultural Arts Foundation, Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation and Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society.
Members of the latter have been making the colorful costumes. Aguilar and a group visited Tijuana to buy material and other costume needs.
“So that’s really cool,” de Watteville said.
The city allows the group to practice at La Colonia Community Center at no cost.
“It’s amazing to see how many people are so gracious and willing to help our community,” Mary Ann Aguilar said. “God put something in front of us and we just ran with it. It really does help the community.”