Sophomore Magdalena Mendez adjusts to changes in Mexican folklore dance events

December 1, 2020 — by Apurva Chakravarthy
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Mendez and her teammates in her Mexican folk dance group, Viva La Tierra, take pictures as they pose in their show costumes.

Although Mendez understands the need to cancel and postpone events, she still feels disappointed that her team won’t be able to perform.

When sophomore Magdalena Mendez pictured how the best parts of 2020 would look, she imagined herself in Guadalajara, Mexico, with her Mexican folk dance group, Viva Mi Tierra, for the annual festival “Colores Del Mundo.” 

During the festival, which was supposed to happen in July, different dance groups from Mexico and the United States come together to showcase their dances.

Instead, the event shifted to the virtual stage, a change that disappointed Mendez and her 11 teammates. Because of the pandemic, her dance practices and events have drastically changed, and four huge events were either canceled or shifted to a virtual format. 

Mendez started Mexican folklore dance as a 5-year-old and has been consistently dancing for 10 years. She has been in and out of different dance groups such as Los Lupeños and is currently dancing with Viva Mi Tierra.

Due to the pandemic, Viva Mi Tierra currently practices in the parking lot of Flowers by Edgar in San Jose every Monday, Thursday and Sunday, where they have enough outdoor space to practice in full formation while social distancing.

The group’s show costumes depend on which of four styles of Mexican dance they perform: Jalisco, Veracruz, Nayarit or Michoacán. The four styles are each from different states in Mexico, which have different styles of dances and outfits. 

The dance involves intricate footwork and handwork, with each region emphasizing a different technique. Each region has at least one or more partner dances, but due to the pandemic, the group has not practiced any partner dances for months.

For the past 10 years, Mendez said she has enjoyed dancing as a form of stress relief.

“Dance makes me forget about school,” Mendez said. “When I get to dance, I always have a different mindset than when I’m in school.”

Because Mendez attends class often and knows all of the dances, the group needs her at countless practices and other events. Because of this, she often has to skip family events or hangouts out with her friends.

These practices and events shut down from March to May. In June, Viva Mi Tierra started to meet outside in person with everyone wearing masks and staying six feet apart. 

“It kind of sucks because this year our group had so many big things planned that we didn’t get the chance to experience,” Mendez said. 

The first was a dance convention in Fresno where folklore groups from the nearby areas perform their dances. They also were invited to two shows in Los Angeles, one for a company that invited the group to perform at their anniversary celebration, and one for Concha Con, an event in Los Angeles that Mendez was especially sad to hear they could not attend. 

Still, Mendez said she was most disappointed to miss Colors De Mundo in Guadalajara. She said that being able to go to Guadalajara with her team and meet all the other dance troupes from the U.S. and Mexico would have made the trip “a once in a lifetime experience.” 

Through all this, Mendez said she understands that everyone’s priority is to take care of themselves and they have to respect what is going on in the world right now. 

She also said she believes things change for a reason, and she is excited to go back to normal practices and events, particularly Colors De Mundo, as soon as it is safe.

“Hopefully, next year once everything is better, we get a chance to do [Colors De Mundo] in person and experience everything like we would have,” Mendez said.

From all of her years of dancing, Mendez’s most memorable moments have been making memories and connections with her team. She also loves the energy they create together when they dance.

“You start getting a family connection with everyone and it’s such a nice feeling,” Mendez said. “It creates such a beautiful vibe in the class.”

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