Fiesta de Reyes hosts traditional Mexican dance competition for 4th year
By Cynthia Robertson | SDUN Reporter
The colorful sights and sounds of “baile folklórico” arrive in Old Town Saturday, April 27. Hosted by Fiesta de Reyes, the fourth annual Folklórico Competition will draw traditional Mexican dance groups from throughout Southern California for three days of intense – and entertaining – competition.
“This is one of our favorite events of the entire year to produce and sponsor,” said Fiesta de Reyes owner Chuck Ross in a press release. “The energy that the dancers bring to the stage will be sure to impress the entire family and will feature the vibrant color and culture of this traditional dance.”
Approximately 16 dance groups will compete, with preliminary rounds held Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day. Six finalists will be asked to return the following week, May 4 from 9 a.m. – noon, to impress the judges once more for the Folklórico Competition title and cash prizes.
The free event will take place in the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, which organizers said is the perfect place for the repeat competition.
“There isn’t a more appropriate place in all of San Diego for this event,” said Eric Minella, Fiesta de Reyes Historic Interpreter. Minella’s role at the Old Town staple – the business is home to 19 locally owned shops, three restaurants and a hotel – is to connect visitors to the history of the region.
Born and raised in San Diego, Yolanda Chacon-Beniquez said the State Park has always been considered the heartbeat of the city. “The fiesta is a reunion of sorts, as many return to experience the warmth of renewed acquaintances,” Chacon-Beniquez said. She is also the director of La Fiesta Danzantes de San Diego.
Baile folklórico is a traditional Latin American dance that emphasizes local folk culture with ballet characteristics. The dance was popularized in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, specifically in Los Angeles and El Paso, Texas. The dance is used, in part, as a way to promote pride in traditional Mexican heritage, Minella said.
“I assume that since San Diego is so close to Los Angeles, that folklórico was popularized here at approximately the same time,” he said.
Amalia Hernandez formalized the dances in Mexico City in 1952. She adapted regional folk dances into dances for stage performance, and popularized and formalized dances that had been evolving for centuries.
The dances are replete with history and tradition, and often need interpretation for the spectators to fully appreciate and understand their significance. Minella said he will tell the stories behind each dance, which some children start learning at a very young age.
“I’ve seen 4 year olds on stage, and I imagine some start younger than that,” he said.
During the preliminary weekend, both children and adult groups will have 25 minutes to perform. One finalist from the children’s groups and two finalists from the adult groups will be selected to advance to the finals.
The final competition takes place during Old Town’s Cinco de Mayo celebration weekend, and Univision reporter Gabriel Sotelo will emcee the entire competition.
For more information visit fiestadereyes.com or call 619-297-3100.