CHICAGO (CBS) – A dance studio on the Northwest Side is hoping to bring a little bit of Mexico to Chicago.
As part of CBS 2's series celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, CBS 2's Marybel Gonzalez showed how students are learning and celebrating their culture.
In Irving Park, one dance studio is not just about the moves but, more so, the meaning behind them.
"I want to bring back the culture that my family came from," said student dancer Amelia.
At the Ballet Folklorico de Chicago, there's a celebration of cultures as diverse as the Mexican states from where they originate.
"We've been doing a lot of different dances from states and places that I've never even knew about," said parent Diana Arroyo. "So we're learning also as parents just the culture, and different dances, different music."
Whether it's dancing to mariachi music, native to the state of Jalisco, or donning the indigenous textiles seen in the south of Mexico, for the dancers, it's about honoring their traditions.
"It's important to us because I didn't grow up knowing too much about either side of my culture," said Falon Arroyo. "We're Mexican and Cuban, and so I feel like it's very important for us to share our traditions."
It's something that was also important to founder Ofelia Guerra.
"They're the reason behind me founding the organization and opening the studio," she said.
That's especially so when it came to her two daughters.
"We taught them Spanish, and we had them enrolled in other ballet folklorico classes," Guerra said. "I decided to open up a studio here on the North Side because nothing really had existed in the past."
In the four years the dance program has been at its Irving Park studio, membership has grown to over 400 student dancers.
Gonzalez: "Why do you think there's such a thirst for this type of performance? Whether it's being a part of it or just watching it as a spectator."
Guerra: "I think it's because it's so vibrant."
And it keeps growing. Guerra is taking her classes to Chicago Public Schools.
"We are so inclusive. We accept anyone. It doesn't have to be Mexican nationality," she said. "We don't charge for the vestuarios, the ensemble pieces that students wear. We lend it to them. We make the tuition as affordable as possible so the barrier to entry is lower than most other places."
By doing so, the program is making sure future generations can celebrate the past.
"If we can get more people to learn about it, then we can keep our traditions alive," said Olivia, a student dancer.
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