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Mexican Folk Dancing Makes a Comeback

Folkloric dance has been has long been a part of maintaining Mexican culture in Southwest Detroit. A few years ago some worried that the art form was disappearing. But lately there seems to be a revival of a dance style that teaches youth about Mexican culture.  

Photo: Martina Guzman

In the basement of St. Gabriele’s Church in Southwest Detroit, the Ballet Folkloriko Moyocoyani Izel is rehearsing for their upcoming show at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Their performance is part of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit Exhibit. The dancers are exhausted, sweaty and their cheeks are pink. 

Good job everybody, that’s how the show is going to be,”says Jaime Carillo, the group’s artistic leader.  ”You need to be ready becuase the music is not stopping at all.  Smiles and everything at all times, because there is always going to be people around us.”

Carillo is part of the husband-and-wife duo (together with his wife Maria Luisa) who started the dance troupe Moyocoyani Izel. Jaime has been dancing for more than three decades. He says he loves it because it involves more than just a dance.

It’s a passion,” he says. “We don’t do this to be the best, or for any other reason but to promote Mexican culture.”

His philosophy seems to be working.  One of his star dancers is 14-year old Adrian Bazil, who will be playing the role of Diego Rivera at the DIA performance. Bazil says because of dancing, he’s learned more about his Mexican roots.

When I didn’t dance I didn’t know that there were so many states in Mexico, or that each region had their own dance,” says Bazil. “And now that I joined I learned more about it.” 

When asked if he is nervous about tomorrow, Bazil says he is more excited than anxious.  

I’m excited, because people who haven’t seen us dance will see us and were getting exposed more, and maybe we’ll get new dancers and be promoted more in the community,” he says.

Both the dancers and their parents seem to be invested in the group’s success. In fact the group seems like one big happy family.  And that’s exactly what Maria Luisa and Jaime say they intended.  

It just led from one thing to another, and our dance turned into romance and then to a wedding with kids and a dance group,”   says Maria Luisa.

Moyocoyani Izel is one of those nuggets of culture you find in pockets throughout neighborhoods in Detroit. The biggest struggle, Maria Luisa says, is to move beyond being just a nugget.  

One of the biggest challenges I think is being recognized by funders as an organization that’s willing to go places,”  she says

The surge in popularity of Mexican dance has kept the community bailando, or dancing. There are now three folk dance groups in Southwest Detroit. 

The Ballet Folkloriko Moyocoyani Izel performs this Saturday at the DIA.