Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Viva Navidad Experience! - Part 1 - Week 51

Welcome to week 51!  Here we go again, another episode in the life of the dancing Wedo. Let's see what drama we can kick up this week! Before we get goin', let's all welcome Ireland and Jamaica to the blog!  Glad to have you along as part of the journey.  Okay, now let's get started!

In the midst of summer, Herencia was approached with an opportunity to perform at Disney for Mexican Independence Day.  An event was being planned for September 16 at the park with portions televised on participating stations. Herencia was encouraged to submit a resume with pictures for consideration to be part of the event.  Several folklorico groups, mariachi and Mexican entertainers were to be part of the all day event.  We sent in our information and Herencia got started right away getting prepared with new costuming and dances for the event, just in case we were selected. We were practicing for our performance for the LA County Fair anyway, so rehearsals served two purposes.  You can read all about the LA County Fair experience back on weeks 40 and 41.  Check them out.

To make a long story short, the event didn't happen in the full format as initially planned.  Therefore, Herencia did not perform.  Our name was put in however for Disney's upcoming holiday events taking place during the months of November and December. On October 13th we received an email with the instructions to submit an "official" application to be part of the Viva Navidad festivities at Disney California Adventure.  We returned all the documentation required immediately!  Then came a period of waiting.  During this time, Herencia put together our Day of the Dead show for performances on November 2nd.  Read more on those performances back on week 45's post.

Word was out that we were possibly heading for Disney and a list of dancers interested in being part of the group for Disney began to grow.  It was on October 30th that we received official notification from Disney that we were selected to participate.  From that point forward, the group's attention was focused primarily on the Disney shows.

Now you may recall my post on week 47 called "The Audition"!  I suggest you read it if you haven't already because it ties in with this week's topic directly.  For those of you who have been following the blog, you know how busy Herencia and the Wedo has been this year.  Never a dull moment. There's always something in the works.  It's necessary to always have something going on to keep that momentum and the group moving forward.  Anyway, week 47 gives you a bigger picture of this whole story, so pause now and take a look at it!

After October 30th, regular ongoing communications with Disney coordinators took place.  They had specific show requirements and provided much information about the set and such, so Richard could put together the production we would present.  In the midst of all this, Herencia also had a show for Riverside's Festival of Lights scheduled for December 14th.  Although the show in Riverside was an actual performance, it quickly became labelled as the live dress rehearsal for Disney.

We were scheduled initially for two shows at Disney on December 21st and two on December 22nd. After reviewing our information and video submissions again, Disney asked us to do all four shows on Saturday December 21st, as well as the two on December 22nd!  We accepted.  We were the featured guest performing group for the entire day on Saturday!  It was an honor to be selected and asked.  Herencia had not performed at Disney in several years, what a way to return - 6 shows!

Many of you have been following the blog for almost a year now and have read all the drama that goes on behind the scenes when putting a show together.  Our Viva Navidad show for Disney California Adventure was no exception.  We had all the regular stuff going on:  practices, costume preparations, dancers dropping out of the show, adjustments - you name it.  The actual show is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak.  I have attempted to give my readers the full spectrum of what "folklorico" really is.  One director made the comment to me that "the dancing is just one facet of folklorico, all the drama and activity behind the scenes, now that's really folklorico!" Anyway, I won't bore you with a play-by-play account of all the behind the scenes preparations, but here are a few photos of our dancers getting prepared:

 As the holidays approached and the shows got closer, the list of dancers kept shrinking.  They were dropping like flies and the stress was mounting.  We were contracted for 20 dancers and had to deliver.  That shouldn't have been a problem, but everything that could happen, did!  People went out for surgery, injuries, work issues, practice conflicts and so on.  I believe it's Murphy's Law that states, "If something can go wrong, it will."  My reply to that is, "Yup"!  With people coming and going, it made it difficult for the show to progress and take on its full potential.  Nonetheless, the show must go on, and it did!

Richard gave it all he had.  He worked so hard.  He had done his part and now it was up to the dancers to pull it off.  The day of our Festival of Lights performance arrived.  We had several new dancers in the group that had not performed with us prior.  We also had several dancers return to be part of the show including Richard's sisters Tina and Tiffany.  Everything was set:  costumes, music and the dances themselves.  Our Disney show was a 17 minute show per the requirements set forth by them.  In order to make the show work for the 30 minute Festival of Lights show, Richard added a holiday opening and closing number.

Our performance time was 7pm on the main stage.  Dancers were given a 6 pm call time.  The festival itself is a big ordeal.  It is sponsored by the famous Mission Inn Hotel & Spa.  The lights are amazing.  So is the crowd of people that gathers and the traffic.  I think I handled the staggered arrivals of dancers pretty well.  I didn't let it get to me because as a director said, "that's part of folklorico, it will never change.  Just go with it."  Most dancers came already dressed and Richard added the finishing touches to the costumes.  Several of the costumes had been repaired and refreshed and our Vera Cruz and Jalisco dresses looked practically brand new.  The women were dripping in crystal necklaces, broaches and bracelets.  And let's not forget the sequins!  Yes, we replaced all the Veracruz lace shawls and the new ones have sequins!

Seven o'clock came quickly and it was showtime.  Just one problem, one dancer was missing, stuck in traffic for over an hour trying to get to the stage.  The stage is operated by the City of Riverside. Performances are voluntary, meaning they are unpaid.  They do not provide parking or changing areas for the entertainers.  So everyone is on their own.  The stage manager was rushing us to get started.  She would not wait even for a couple of minutes as our dancer ran through the streets from the freeway, literally!  The show must go on - NOW!  What to do?

Now during the week, I had made up a bunch of beaded necklaces with our business cards attached. To stall, dancers threw them to folks in the audience.  But it came to the point where it was either take the stage or cancel the show.  So, in a quick decision, I danced the opening number in the wrong costume so the show wouldn't be cancelled.  It wouldn't have been fair to our dancers for the show to be cancelled, some of them had driven all the way from Los Angeles to participate.  That's 50 or 60 miles one way.  

The show had its share of challenges.  We anticipated it would.  But the audience still enjoyed it.  It was a good learning experience.  We were having our final studio practice for Disney the next day. This show revealed what needed to be fixed and gave us an idea of what to focus on.  Some noteworthy happenings during the show were:  the new necklace we got recently to accompany the china costume broke and fell on stage.  Also, Richard's belt buckle malfunctioned and flopped through the entire performance.  What a way to steal the show!  One of the Jalisco dresses also had a roaming zipper! Aye, how I hate those malfunctioning zippers.  As the dancer moved, so did it.  Don't worry, it's been fixed!

We had two sets of twin ladies dance the show too! How cool is that? Check out these photos from The Festival of Lights:


For me personally, the show went fine. Aurelio Arellano videoed the show and gave us a copy. Thank you so much.  This gave us an opportunity to see the show. After viewing the video, we felt it was a good show even with all the challenges.  I had a few friends come out to see the show!  Two were a couple from church, the wife was one of my professors in Bible College!  It was so nice to see them.  Richard's nephew also came to the performance sporting his charro.  Check out the future of Herencia - he's already an active little dancer:

The Disney weekend approached quickly and I started getting a cough on Wednesday.  Oh no!  Yes, it appeared I had caught the bug everyone was catching and passing around.  What poor timing. This was not a good time to get sick.  Then on Thursday, I got "the zit". Yes, a nice big red pimple on my nose!  Again, what timing!  I started treating it right away in hopes of it going away by Saturday's performances.  On Friday my co-worker's reaction was enough to tell the gravity of the situation, "Rudolph," he exclaimed!  I was the great albino version of Santa's leading deer.  Oh Dear!  Of course several co-workers offered their pimple face tragedy remedies for me to try.  Of which I would like to share my favorite.
My favorite was a combination of flax seeds, nylons and gauze strips.  Apparently, that's all you need to make a pimple vanish or so I was told. So Friday night I decided to give it a try.  I bought a 5 pound bucket of flax seeds, a pair or nylons (Leggs or Underalls were recommended), and lastly, some gauze strips.  No specific instructions were given so I ate the flax seeds, put on the nylons and wrapped my head in gauze. By the end if the night I was a constipated mummy with silky smooth legs and the crater on my face remained.  Where did I go wrong?  Hmmmmm! I had missed the process completely.  But it was good for a laugh.  Totally joking here!

Truth is, alcohol treatments did the trick and I was all good by Saturday!  I did both kinds, the ones you drink and the ones you rub!  However, the remedy I spoke of was suggested.  Maybe one of you would like to try it and let me know how that works out for you!

The performances at Disney California Adventure Park for Viva Navidad were 17 minute shows that were upbeat and energetic. Lots of cheering and gritos on stage.  Richard put together an action packed performance which displayed the Regions of Sinaloa, Veracruz, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Puebla.  Of course, as is the tradition with Herencia, the show closed with Guadalajara.  Park attendees took lots of pictures and video of us.  Several people walking through the park that were just passing by the stage, stopped to watch the show, which held their attention.  Most folks stayed and watched the entire show from beginning to end.  The stage we danced on was in the Paradise Gardens section of the park.  There was also another stage close by where the Mariachi Divas performed, as well as other Mexican musicians and groups. Our dancers enjoyed the music on their breaks. It was fun to perform in the midst of all the action and bustle of carnival rides. California Screamin' was towering nearby - which I rode twice by the way!

Richard's Grandma Elaine made a surprise trip from Nevada to come see us perform on Saturday. What a nice surprise.  I think I surprised her with the dancing!  No one ever expects a wedo to dance Mexican dancing!  We also had several friends and fellow dancers from other folklorico groups show up at the park to wach the show.  "Very Entertaining" was one comment I heard.  Herencia appreciates everyone's support, thank you all for coming to the show.

This was an extra special event for me as it was the first time my family had ever seen me dance.  My mom and dad came out from Florida to see the shows on Sunday.  My sister and her family also came down from Santa Barbara.  My folks had not been to Disney in California for over 43 years!  In fact, my sister had just been born and on this occasion they reunited to return together to the park 43 years later!  Of course, California Adventure didn't even exist 43 years ago, but it was still nice to have the family come out and enjoy Disney at the newer park.  My parents love Walt Disney World in Florida and go often.  At this time of year, you'll often find them at Mickey's Christmas Party in the spectacular Magic Kingdom.

I was a bit nervous, more so than usual, to perform for my family.  Go figure!  Even so, I gave it my all.  Richard said he was proud and moved at my performance with my folks there looking on.

Before my folks came out, I mentioned to my mom that I was dancing a polka dance.  She said that her parents use to go polka dancing.  That's something I didn't know and was exciting to learn about my family.  I had no clue that anyone in the family enjoyed folk dancing at all.  Apparently, there is a history of folk dancing Wedos right in my own family!  Who knew!

Dancers on break enjoying the Mariachi Divas!

We receive lots of positive comments and feedback on our shows. Richard was moved by all the compliments the staff shared backstage.  Everyone gave 100% and did an amazing job.  Well done team.  It was especially nice to see the group strong again and this event was a positive bonding experience for everyone. We had 20 dancers on Saturday and 21 on Sunday!  Hard to believe that earlier this year we were down to only three people left in the group.  Membership and momentum are up and I am looking forward to 2014.  

I believe that God really answered all our prayers. I give God all the credit for the success of the show and that we had enough dancers to meet the requirements of the show.  Just goes to show you that if God opens the door and brings you to it, He'll bring you through it.

I want to give a special "hats off" to my dance partner Araceli for doing an amazing job.  All six shows were awesome!  I think it was the best dancing we've done together since I joined the group two years ago.  Way to go!  We had our share of classic moments on stage including my hat falling off during the last performance of the weekend.  It was priceless how we hammed it up and played it off.  Thanks for having fun with me.  Here's a picture of us my sister took at the show:
I also want to thank Richard for all his hard work and congratulate him for his groups' return to the Disney stage.  He even included my name in the recorded introduction as co-director of the group. Thanks for the recognition.  Richard has been dancing for nearly 25 years now and people are amazed at how he has taken Herencia and transformed it over the years into the performing group she is today.  All your hard work is paying off and I am so honored to be a part of the magic.  Well done.


There were a lot of photos taken at the show.  In Viva Navidad - Part 2, I'll be sharing them.  It's going to take me a moment to collect them all from everyone, so be sure to return for the sequel. Next week's post is about Richard and his folklorico career, so be sure to return and read all about that. That's all for now, be sure to come back next week.  Until then, this Wedo is outta here, or as some referred to me this week, "Woody" out!

Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":

Google E-mail:
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.


1 comment:

  1. Came back and read this one that I'd missed, and enjoyed it very much. What excitement, what stress, what achievement! Bravo!