Mexican culture will come to life in a colorful display of dynamic dance and music at a festival that merges budding child performers with professional adult artists.
Musicians will strum guitars, blow trumpets and bow violins in passionate melodies while dancers will perform intricate footwork in colorful skirts at the 18th Annual Mariachi and Folklorico Festival, presented by the Chandler Center for the Arts. The lively traditional music and dances of Mexico will come to the stage at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at the arts center, 250 N. Arizona Ave.
Nonprofit organization C.A.L.L.E. de Arizona produces the annual event marking Hispanic Heritage Month. Festival director Vanessa Ramirez hopes the show will draw 1,500 people.
Dance is also a big part of the mariachi festival. About 60 child and adult dancers from four folklorico dance groups in Chandler, Queen Creek and other parts of the Valley will perform together accompanied by the mariachi groups.
“It’s a unique thing that we’re doing in the Valley,” Ramirez of Chandler said. “Each group has their own style to what they do. Every director has their own style. It definitely is a bit of a challenge, but a fun one to get all these dancers on stage and have them look as if they are one company.”
Ramirez is also owner and director of Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli-AZ, a nonprofit organization in Chandler with dancers as young as 2 years old and as old as 68. For the festival, dancers performing will range from 11 to 23 years old, she said. Usually only the teenage and adult dancers perform at the festival, but this year Ramirez is allowing the younger dancers to participate.
“They’ve been working really hard to be up to par with the more advanced dancers,” she said.
The young dancers are excited to be part of the huge performance, and Ramirez is thrilled to work with the other dance troupes at the festival.
Primavera Folkorico Dance Company of Phoenix, Institute of Folklorico Mexicano of Queen Creek and Tradiciones Dance Company of Phoenix will perform with Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli-AZ at the festival.
Since July, the four dance groups have been rehearsing four to six hours every weekend. The joint performance has “created just an awesome unity,” Ramirez said.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “Every year it’s just growing and growing; the dancers get really excited about coming back to work on this project. With everything going on in the world right now, it’s wonderful to escape all the negativity and come see all the positive activities that our youth are doing, the way they’re all collaborating, communicating. It’s another way to be proud of their culture and share the world.”
Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, a premier mariachi ensemble based in Los Angeles headed by Grammy Award winner Jimmy “El Pollo” Cuéllar, will perform again this year. Also featured at the festival will be Mariachi Sonido de Mexico from Tucson. Youths who participate in the 2017 C.A.L.L.E. de Arizona Mariachi Music Workshops Sept. 27-29 at Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School in Chandler will also perform.
Ticket sales for the festival go toward scholarships for students. C.A.L.L.E. de Arizona said it is committed to promoting the beauty, characteristics and qualities of the Mexican/Hispanic culture through various art forms.
Ramirez described folklorico as a traditional folk dance from all the states of Mexico. Mariachi songs express various themes including love, loss and patriotism. Children, teens and adults in Chandler, Mesa and Tempe through nonprofit organizations, after-school programs and Arizona State University take classes and perform throughout the year.
Chris Nguyen, a general music teacher at Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School, is looking forward to the festival. He runs an after-school mariachi club for children at the Chandler school through the nonprofit Desert Sounds Performing Arts organization in Mesa.
“I feel like listening to live professional mariachi is just so beneficial,” Nguyen, of Chandler, said. “I think the more I know as a teacher the better I am as an instructor. Music is a language of the soul. Anyone can just listen to the mariachi music and as long as it’s played well, it will reach out to you.
“If a person is appreciative of other cultures and just listening to great, quality music, they’re going to get a lot out of the festival,” he added.
To learn more about the 18th Annual Mariachi and Folklorico Festival and to buy tickets, visit chandlercenter.org.