Sunday, January 5, 2014

Richard Solorzano - Week 52

Happy New Year Everybody!  We've arrived at 2014!  It's hard to believe that just a year ago, I was writing my first post and now this week I am publishing my 52nd! I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I still don't know what I'm doing at times!  All I know is that we made it!  Who would have thought?  A special welcome to Argentina and Cyprus this week. Thanks for joining me!

There's an old saying that goes something like "Save the best for last".  In fact, Vanessa Williams even recorded a hit song by that title. In my opinion, I have done just that!  Welcome to week 52 of the One Big Wedo blog, the official last post of my one year commitment to weekly blog postings. But do not fear, I will be back!  I have a Viva Navidad - Part 2 to write and post, as well as a Flaming Folklorico - Part 2.  I have a few other ideas to write about too.

Save The Best For Last Video Link

This week's topic is Richard Solorzano.  You have read about him throughout the course of the blog and now I want to share more of his folklorico story. He's a vital part of One Big Wedo because without him there wouldn't be this dancing and blogging Wedo. I've heard people say that I am his "#1 Fan!". And perhaps that's true. Read and decide for yourself.  On week 42, I wrote a blog called "Who is Herencia Mexicana? A History!" I recommend you read it because it gives some history on the group and Richard.  It's a good foundation for this week's post.  Richard is the only member of Herencia Mexicana that has actively been there the entire time throughout the years.  He hasn't missed a beat!  The Herencia story is really his story, but there is so much more to his personal folklorico journey to discover.  Let's take a look!

Richard Solorzano was born April 18, 1979 to the proud parents of Richard and Cristina Solorzano, residents of Redlands, California.  In 1988, at the age of nine, they put little Richard, his sister Tina, and brother David in folklorico at St. Mary's Ballet Folklorico of Redlands '74.  Now allow me to inject here, that many folks have taken the credit for teaching Richard folklorico over the years.  It never ceases to amaze me all the people that have told me personally, that they are the ones responsible for his folklorico training and success.  And perhaps many of them have influenced him and his dancing technique/style over the years, but this week I'm going to write it from Richard's own point of view.  Richard credits Jenna Cortez Aguirre of St. Mary's Ballet Folklorico of Redlands '74 with teaching him the foundational fundamentals of folklorico. She taught him the basic steps and foot work and got him started on the right path.  She was his first folklorico teacher.
Richard had a passion for folklorico from the very beginning.  He shared with me the story how the children practiced first on rehearsal days. Then after their practice, the adults and advanced students would practice.  All the other children would run off and play during the adult class.  Richard however, would stay in the back of the class or in the hallway and practice the adult/advanced material.  He loved folklorico and wanted to learn as much as he could.  He had found something that he really enjoyed and took to it.

Another story Richard shared with me was his parents had him take trumpet lessons from successful mariachi musician Juan Jimenez.  Trumpet was not Richard's passion, dancing was.  Even his teacher noticed and told his parents that if Richard were to practice and play the trumpet like he danced, he would be an amazing trumpet player.  Again it was confirmed that Richard was destined to be a folklorico dancer.  Richard is largely responsible for his own personal dancing development and success over the years as he spent hours of his own time developing his technique, learning, and practicing.  He invested the time, energy and effort.  He was largely self taught, more on that in a bit.
In 1990, at the age of 10, Richard's parents founded the group Nuestra Herencia Mexicana.  They sought out Mr. Jose Ruiz de la Torre to instruct the group.  Mr. Ruiz de la Torre agreed to teach the group after seeing the potential in the group and in little Richard.  Mr. Ruiz de la Torre told Richard's parents that Richard had "it" and "he would go far".  Richard considers Mr. Jose Ruiz de la Torre to be his primary folklorico teacher.

Richard has been dancing and performing for 25 years now.  Although he has never had any "formal" dance training from an academy, college or university, nor has he been a part of any classically trained ballet school or dance company, Richard has studied folklorico consistently through the years through various groups and workshops, as well as on his own.  I asked him for a list of the groups he has been part of and performed with over the years and this is the list he provided:

  • St. Mary's Ballet Folklorico of Redlands '74

  • Ballet Folklorico de Nuestra Herencia Mexicana (a.k.a. Ballet Folklorico de Herencia Mexicana or Herencia Mexicana)

  • Club Bellas Artes de Pomona

  • Ballet Folklorico Sol de Mexico

  • Ballet Folklorico Nuestra Tradiciones

  • Ballet Folklorico de Iglesias de Mission

  • Images of Mexico (Imagenes de Mexico)

  • Orgullo De Mexico

  • Ballet Folklorico de Carol Amijo

  • Ballet Folklorico Mi Tierra

I think it's safe to say and make the claim that all these groups with their instruction and guidance, influenced and contributed to the folklorico dancing development of Richard R. Solorzano.  In addition to the studio classroom, Richard studied independently, using videos as a guide.  Richard spent a great deal of time studying, analyzing and learning the repertoire of Amalia Hernandez and other greats.  He taught himself.  This also aided in developing the unique dances he created for Herencia Mexicana.  Not wanting to copy other dance groups, he used other groups dances as a foundation to create something new.


I asked Richard to share with me some of the highlights and accomplishments of his performing career. Here is a short list of some of the performances and accomplishments he recalls from the past 25 years:

  • Performing at the Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival with Mariachi Sol De Mexico, Las Reynas de Los Angeles and singer Graciela Beltran.

  • Performing at the Riverside Mariachi Festival with Mariachi Sol De Mexico 

  • Showcase performance at the Las Vegas International Dance Competition

  • Showcase performance at Danzantes Unidos with BF Sol de Mexico

  • Traveling and performing in Salt Lake City  Utah, Denver Colorado, Arizona & Mexicali Mexico.

  • A private event in Beverly Hills, California

  • The year of the L.A. riots, Richard was featured on the news for a Cinco de Mayo performance.

  • Dancing at Pancho Villa's Mexican Restaurant in Fontana, California every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holiday for over 4 years (Herencia Mexicana was the resident dance company at the time) and being featured in television commercials for the restaurant that still run to this day (See the video below).
Pancho Villa Restaurant Commercial
  • Interviewed on a local television station that broadcasts in San Bernardino, California.

  • Performing for "22 Seconds of Fame" television show, Telemundo and Estrella TV.
22 Seconds of Fame (with Images of Mexico)
  • Performing at Olvera Street & Plaza Mexico in the Los Angeles area

  • Performing at numerous restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area on various occasions including: Casa Sanchez, La Fonda, Fiesta Mexicana, Guadalajara Grill and Pancho Villas.  All with live mariachi.

  • Disney Guest Performances at both Disneyland and California Adventure through Disney Magic Music Days, Community Arts Showcase and Viva Navidad Guest Performance programs.

  • In 2012, being selected to serve on the panel of judges for the Anaheim Marketplace Annual Folklorico Competition.

Of course it's hard to calculate the total number of performances Richard has done during his 25 years of dancing.  He has performed all over the place and he never kept a detailed record of each performance.  All I know is that he frequently says, "I performed there" or "I danced for them".  I recall that he made a list once of all the different dances he learned and performed over the years. The list had several hundred dances on it, including multiple variations of the same dance.  He's probably danced the Jarabe Tapatio several thousands of times over his 25 years of dancing.  That's really something in my opinion.  Just goes to show, if you commit to something an stick to it, you can create a rich history.

As I mention in the early weeks of the blog, the first time I ever saw Richard perform he caught my attention.  There was something different about him.  He had that "it" factor.  He is unique, original and fresh.  There's just something about him.  He has a level of engagement and connectedness with his partner that goes beyond what I have typically seen.  He's a pleasure to watch dance. There is also an element of showmanship that exceeds the norm. Very entertaining! Some may say I am partial, but I have seen him dance side by side with the "pros" and not only does he hold his own, but there is a rare quality about him that draws attention to him.  It must be that "it" factor.  There's no other way to describe or explain it.


Over the past couple years I have had the opportunity and privilege to dance and work along side Richard.  I have really gotten to know him well.  I have witnessed firsthand his level of commitment to folklorico and the sacrifices he has made to teach, direct, coordinate and perform.  It is an exhausting work and labor of love.  He has paid the price.  I've heard him say that "he did not have a normal childhood" as he was dancing all the time.  He also paid the price by going the extra distance in a somewhat competitive folklorico world.  With an abundance of folklorico dancers and groups in the Los Angeles area, it is easy for you to be replaced.  During his time at Pancho Villas he was injured in an automobile accident.  There was no time to find a replacement and not wanting to lose the venue, Richard performed with a broken collar bone.  He paid the price.  He recalls it took three people to help in get into the charro costume.  The mariachi were shocked at the bruising on his body. Nonetheless, the show must go on, and it did.  He recovered and Herencia kept the venue.  Some may think that's ridiculous and extreme, but as I've stated before, there's always someone willing to pay the price.


Being a dancer with longevity has its challenges.  Richard has had his share of battles with weight and with all the affects of aging.  Even so, his feet are still tapping away.  After 25 years you would think that one would burn out, and at times he has, but he has always found a way to keep going and stir up the excitement to continue on.  I know that there was a time when he was ready to give it up and move on in life, but he knew how much I enjoyed the dancing, so he stuck with it for my sake. He knew my commitment to Herencia.  Together, we have managed to keep it going.
In closing, I want to say that I believe Richard Solorzano is the "real deal".  He has lived the folklorico life and I applaud him.  What an honor it has been for me to come along side him. Thank you Richard for being you.  Richard has had the added benefit, honor and privilege of reading each Big Wedo post before it has been published.  Now there's an advantage worth dancing about! He's so lucky! LOL!

There you have it folks, 52 weeks of One Big Wedo!  How did I do?  Hope you enjoyed them. In closing, I want to give a quick shout out to my friends at Miicamisa Folk-Urban Wear. Thanks for your encouragement and support! Check them out online and on Facebook. Until next time ya'll - Wedo out!  And remember, do not fear, "I'll be back!"
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.


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