Welcome Armenia to my folklorico blogging journey! Glad to have you on board. Thanks everyone who has read the blog. There have been over 500 page views as of this week! Wow, I am truly amazed. Let's not delay and get right into it this week.
After six months of practice and rehearsals, I had my first opportunity to perform. On May 11, 2012 Herencia Mexicana was invited to participate in the Mariachi de Azusa 6th Annual Benefit Concert. It was a fundraising event to support the Azusa Unified School District after school mariachi music program. Four mariachi groups performed, as well as special guests, and Herencia. We were specifically asked to perform "La Negra," which is a popular song and commonly played at any mariachi concert. It is from the region of Jalisco, which is often recognized by the charro suits that are worn. Read my week 5 blog post called, "What To Wear?" for more information about charro suits.
There was one small problem for me, I hadn't learned the dance, "La Negra," yet. That was a BIG problem actually! In the weeks prior to the show, I learned the dance well enough to perform it with the group. Nothing like learning the dance at the last minute. I personally think that I work and learn better under pressure anyway. Don't tell Richard however! This was a special opportunity because the dance was performed as live mariachi played. It is a privilege anytime a folklorico dancer gets to perform with live mariachi. Here it was my first performance and it was with live mariachi . What a great way to start! To top it off, I got to wear my brand new charro suit for the first time!
I was excited and a little bit nervous before the show. Richard gave me some simple advice: Make sure you smile the entire time - show teeth, if you forget what your doing - keep moving, relax and enjoy yourself. Now, on the way over to the event, I ran though a drive-thru and got myself a ham and cheese sandwich because I was hungry. Big mistake. After performing "La Negra," we exited the stage to go change for the next set of dances. I couldn't stop coughing. Why exactly? I'm not sure. Perhaps it was nerves or the result of the sudden physical exertion of performing the dance. Probably both. All I can say is that there was something definitely going on.
Sure enough, I ran into the bathroom and the ham and cheese came up and out. My body defooded. Lovely! A concerned parent asked if I was alright. I was and the show must go on. I got changed and went back out on the stage to finish up. First lesson learned: It is unwise to eat right before a performance. All that food in your stomach makes it hard to breath, uncomfortable to move, and if the right conditions exist it may come back for a visit. This is what I refer to as the "folklorico fergle" which has occurred to me on four separate performing occasions. Just wanted to give you a glimpse into what happens backstage and behind the scenes. The wedo is blowing chunks!
That evening, Herencia Mexicana also presented dances from the region of Vera Cruz. I performed two dances: "El Pescador" and "El Jarabe Loco." The stage had a wooden floor. With everyone in the group doing the stomping footwork, it made it difficult to here the music. We held it together fine, but it taught me another lesson. Lesson two: You have to know the dance and the music well enough not to depend on anything - including hearing the music. I finished my portion of the show and I was pleased just to make it through it. I graded my performance a "B". Not bad for being my first time out. I was encouraged because it made me realize that I may actually be able to do this dancing stuff.
The following Sunday we had another performance. It was Mother's Day, May 13, 2012. The Catholic Church in Claremont was having their annual carnival and Herencia was invited to perform on their stage. This was my first performance that was open to the public at no charge. I created an event of it on Facebook and invited many of my family, friends and co-workers. A few came out including Richard's family and he dedicated the show to his mother. I performed the same regions and dances as before with a couple of additions. This time Richard added an audience participation dance. We all dressed up in our Chihuahua costumes and asked people in the audience to dance with us. My own co-worker stood me up when I asked her to dance! So I found myself another reluctant partner. Lesson three: Finding a willing dance partner is hard. I also performed another Jalisco dance with the group called "Guadalajara," which is how Richard closes all his shows.
Again, I graded my performance a "B". The stage surface at this show was slick. Very slippery. Also, one of the other men in the group failed to show up for the performance and we had to alter choreography at the last minute. Lesson four: There will be a challenge you face at every performance, you have to learn to roll with the punches. After the show another co-worker and friend asked me to do the Three Amigos dance so he could record it on his phone. He begged me and I finally gave into him. I am going to post it on Facebook. Check it out. My page is: One Big Wedo - Guero and you can find it under the photos/videos. I tried to insert the video here but it wouldn't allow me to, so sorry.
As a result of dancing at the Mariachi de Azusa Fundraiser event, two other performance opportunities for Herencia opened up. Both with live mariachi! The first was a performance at Azusa Memorial Park. I really enjoyed this performance because there was a small group of folks, including the mayor, that formed a cheering section for the "big wedo!" Another was a private birthday event in a different Azusa park. Herencia recreated the same audience participation dance. One of the female dancer's got herself a man to dance with and after the show she told me that he commented to her, "That's one tall Mexican!" "No" she replied, "He's a guero!" and the man was confused and shocked, both at the same time. I get that reaction a lot once it's revealed I'm a white boy.
In current news, Herencia just had their first performance of 2013 last Saturday! We started the show with Vera Cruz. I gave my performance an "A" for the Vera Cruz portion of the show. I even performed a dance called, "El Palomo y La Paloma" with one of the ladies in the group. This is a dance that I wanted to learn from the start of my folklorico quest. It was just the two of us dancing it on stage. I think it was the best I've ever performed the dance. And true to lesson two, you could hardly hear the music, but we did just fine. The rest of the show, for me personally, needed work. Definitely, some opportunities to learn from. I will be blogging about those in the future.
Several years ago I met Beyonce in Lake Tahoe/Stateline, Nevada. Yes, thee Beyonce. I had purchased a premium concert ticket package to one of her concerts. It was during her B'Day album tour. The package included many benefits such as backstage pass, meet and greet, photo opportunity and front row seating. I like to do things right. The meet and greet happened prior to the show and the last thing I remember saying to her was, "I'll see you out there, I'm in the front row!" The "Queen Bee" rocked it. About half way through the show, I realized one of her back up singers was looking at me and I smiled and waived at her. Next thing I knew, Beyonce asked, "Where are my players at?" and her back up singer said, "He thinks he's a player right there!" and she pointed at me. What? Oh Nooooooooooooooooo! Beyonce walked over to the edge of the stage where I was at and said, "So you think you're a player huh?" In that moment, fear set in. Why? Because all I could think of was, "She's going to pull onto the stage. I can't dance. I'm going to look stupid." I had stage fright.
She didn't pull me or anyone on stage. Had she, I would have been a star example that many white folks can not dance well at all. People tell me all the time that it would have been a great experience to dance with Beyonce on stage like that, but for me I was relieved. Guess I have a phobia of looking bad or ridiculous in front of people. That's my version of the story of that night and I'm sticking with it.
I admire Beyonce. She has worked very, very hard and it shows in her performances. During her recent Super Bowl performance you could see the amount of hard work and practice that went into it. I appreciate her consistent precision in executing her dances that contributes to a stellar performance every time. I need more of that. It's performers and performances like that, that make me want to work harder and strive to be a better dancer. I don't perform anywhere near that scale of show but I still would like to deliver a winning performance every time.
Love the cheesy smile on my face. They said, "Say cheese!" and I delivered. Looks like I'm ready to hit the stage myself! Just call me "Little Swiss Miss!"
Don't Worry! I'm not going to be posting any YouTube videos of me trying to do my own version of "Single Ladies." You know how I feel about leotards and body suits rank the same. However, if I could get Richard and a couple of the other guy dancers to dress up in their charro suits and record a video to it, I would be down. That would be priceless and probably go viral! It may happen and I will keep up informed of any developments! Now put your hands up!
In high school and college I did a lot a performing. Music, theater and opera primarily. Then I took nearly 17 years off. I am happy and pleased that folklorico has given me opportunities to perform again. Especially in this season of my life.
Below is a list of performances I have participated in. At the time this blog post was published there were 16 performing events, seven with live mariachi. I did not include any impromptu, unscheduled and un-costumed events, although there have been at least three, all with live mariachi. I will be adding to this list as performance opportunities arise in 2013. I've been taking lessons now for 16 months and performing for 10 months. I'm excited to see what new opportunities present themselves. Perhaps I will be dancing for your event next!
May 11, 2012: Mariachi de Azusa 6th Annual Benefit Concert - Azusa, California (Herencia Mexicana) - Live Mariachi
May 13, 2012: Our Lady of Assumption - Mother's Day - OLA Fiesta - Claremont, California (Herencia Mexicana)
May 18, 2012: Plaza Mexico Performance - Lynnwood, California (Herencia Mexicana)
July 19, 2012: Azusa Memorial Park Event - Azusa, California (Herencia Mexicana) - Live Mariachi
July 25, 2012 : 2nd Annual Viva La Vida @ Fiesta Mexicana Restaurant - Montebello, California (Images of Mexico) - Live Mariachi
July 28, 2012: Durado Cultural Heritage Foundation Fundraiser Event - El Monte, California (Herencia Mexicana & Images of Mexico) - Live Mariachi
August 19, 2012: Private Birthday Event - Pico Rivera, California (Herencia Mexicana)
September 14, 2012: Plaza Mexico Performance - Lynnwood, California (Herencia Mexicana)
September 15, 2012: Private Birthday Event - Montclair, California (Herencia Mexicana) - Live Mariachi
September 26, 2012: Private Wedding Event - Loma Linda, California (Herencia Mexicana)
October 7, 2012: St. Adelaide Church Carnival - Highland, California (Herencia Mexicana)
October 28, 2012: Private Birthday Event - Azusa, California (Herencia Mexicana) - Live Mariachi
December 1, 2012: LA Foster Care Event (DFCS) - Montebello, California (Herencia Mexicana)
December 9, 2012: Riverside Festival of Lights - Riverside, California (Herencia Mexicana)
December 11, 2012: Durado Foundation, Misa y Fiesta de Celebracion a la Virgen de Guadalupe - Riverside, California (Images of Mexico) - Live Mariachi
February 9, 2013: Mission School Event - Redlands, California (Herencia Mexicana)
March 9, 2013: Santa Teresita Hayden Child Care Family Festival - Duarte, California (Herencia Mexicana)
April 6, 2013: Private Birthday Event - Ontario, California (Herencia Mexicana)
April 13, 2013: Herencia Mexicana 2013: El Mitote - Historic Civic Center Theatre - Corona, California (Sol de Mexico Ballet Folklorico) (Herencia Mexicana)
April 28, 2013: City of Azusa - 2013 Cinco De Mayo Celebration, Azusa, California (Herencia Mexicana)
May 5, 2013: Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, California. "Romance of the Ranchos" (Herencia Mexicana)
May 12, 2013: OLA Fiesta! Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Claremont, California. (Herencia Mexicana)
May 18, 2013: Private Family Reunion Event - Arcadia Park in Arcadia, California. (Herencia Mexicana)
June 1, 2013: Ascension Church Community Festival 2013 - Los Angeles, California. (Herencia Mexicana)
June 14, 2013: Orgullo 2013 (Sponsored by Unidos Y Orgullo) - Potrero Night Club - Glendale, Colorado (Herencia Mexicana)
June 15, 2013: Denver Pridefest 2013 @ Civic Center Park - Orgullo Latino Stage - Denver, Colorado (Herencia Mexicana - 2 Shows)
June 16, 2013: Denver Pridefest 2013 @ Civic Center Park - Orgullo Latino Stage - Denver, Colorado (Herencia Mexicana - 2 Shows)
September 1, 2013: Disney's Community Arts Showcase - Disney California Adventure - Hollywood Backlot Stage - Anaheim, California (Sol de Mexico Ballet Folklorico)
November 2, 2013 - Day of The Dead 2013 - Olvera Street Gazebo - Los Angeles, California (Herencia Mexicana)
November 2, 2013 - Dia de Los Muertos Ten Year Anniversary - Historic Downtown Riverside @ Market & Tenth - Riverside, California (Herencia Mexicana) (BF Sol de Mexico)
December 14, 2013 - Riverside Festival of Lights sponsored by The Mission Inn - Main Stage at University & Main - Riverside, California (Herencia Mexicana)
September 27, 2014 - St. Bernardine's Multicultural Festival - San Bernardino, California (Herencia Mexicana)
October 12, 2014 - Private Wedding Reception Performance - Mentone Moose Lodge, Mentone Beach, California (Herencia Mexicana)
October 18, 2014 - Herencia Mexicana's 2014 Annual Fundraiser Event - The Ranch - Riverside, California - 2 Performances (Herencia Mexicana)
November 23, 2014 - Disney Viva Navidad! - Disney California Adventure - Paradise Pier/Goofy's Sky School - Anaheim, California - 2 Shows (Herencia Mexicana)
December 6, 2014 - Knott's Merry Farm - Knott's Berry Farm - Calico Stage - Buena Park, California (Herencia Mexicana)
December 13, 2014 - Winter Wonderland - The Roosevelt Bowl @ Perris Hill Park - San Bernardino, California (Herencia Mexicana)
December 13, 2014 - Riverside Mission Inn Festival of Lights - Riverside, California (Herencia Mexicana)
December 21, 2014 - KCAA Radio Event @ The Carousel Mall - Performance & Radio Interview - San Bernardino, California (Herencia Mexicana)
May 10, 2015 - OLA Fiesta - Our Lady Of Assumption Church & School - Claremont, CA (Herencia Mexicana)
June 17, 2016 - La Plaza de Culturas y Artes 5th Anniversary Celebration Event & CBS Channel 9 News - Los Angeles, California (Herencia Mexicana)
June 26, 2016 - The Rock Church and World Outreach Center - San Bernardino, California (Herencia Mexicana) (Live Mariachi)
August 13, 2016 - Anaheim Brewery - Anaheim, California (Esencia Dance Company)
October 15, 2016 - Private Event - Wedding - Fontana, California (Herencia Mexicana)
Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":
Google E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: One Big Wedo (Guero)
Twitter: Michael Smith @onebigwedo
Contact Information for Ballet Folklorico de Herencia Mexicana:
Richard Solorzano, Director: (909) 201-1957
Facebook: Herencia Mexicana
Note: Looking for your own adventure or journey? Herencia is a great place to find one! Folklorico lessons and performances are both available. Herencia Mexicana performs for private & public events of all kinds. Book your event today! Herencia Mexicana welcomes new students. No previous folklorico or dance experience required. All are welcome.