Twirling their vibrant, floor-length skirts to mariachi choreography, Grupo Folklórico can be found behind Heritage Hall on Wednesdays and Thursdays to practice its routines.
Through flirtatious choreography that reflects different aspects of Mexican culture, students in the group learn about the culture of each Mexican region that inspired the routines.
Evelyn Lopez, a senior majoring in applied and computational mathematics, led the effort to create the new folklórico group at USC last semester, after the group had been inactive for several years.
“I just had this random thought that if I graduate from here and this group doesn’t start … I’d be really disappointed,” Lopez said.
This time, she said she took initiative by inviting friends like Brianna Pasillas, a junior majoring in narrative studies, to be the group’s first members, finding a faculty adviser and filing necessary paperwork to create an organization.
Lopez, the club’s president, said Grupo Folklórico now features 15 dancers who attend biweekly practices, learning various Mexican dances and cultures from states like Jalisco, where folklórico is most common, and Sinaloa, which is notable for its banda music.
Later this month, Grupo Folklórico will showcase both of these routines in its first performance at the Cultural Art Expo.
Pasillas, who serves as the vice president, said she had little dance experience when she joined the group. She added that learning the different dances has helped her connect with and take pride in her culture.
“I feel like as a second generation Mexican American, I always felt just a little bit off to the side with my Mexican heritage and the culture,” Pasillas said. “I feel like [Folklórico’s], kind of easier for me to identify with it and be proud of it because it’s a really beautiful dance, and I really like being a part of it.”
Belen Espinoza, a senior club member majoring global health, said she grew up talking about and watching Folklórico performances with her family, but she had few opportunities to learn the dances herself.
Joining Grupo Folklórico has allowed her and other students to learn more about Mexican cultures through dance and find a community of Latinx students on campus to connect with.
“It’s hard to feel at home on campus sometimes,” Espinoza said. “To have that thing you can participate in and be like, ‘I’m going to hear the music. I’m going to hear the language. I’m going to see the dresses. I’m going to feel at home [and it] just feels great.”
When Lopez was planning Grupo Folklórico, she recruited Jennifer Macias, a staff attorney at the USC Immigration Clinic, to help teach dances and cultures to the group, because of her 11 years of on-and-off experience performing and teaching Folklórico.
Growing up, Macias said she would watch Folklórico performances at festivals and loved the skirts and music so, as an undergraduate student, she joined UCLA’s Folklórico group. She hopes to pass on what she learned at UCLA to students interested in learning about Folklórico.
“I think it’s important to build a sense of community for students, especially those who identify [with] or who want to learn about folk dances from Mexico,” Macias said.
After she graduates next year, Lopez wants Grupo Folklórico to continue growing and being a community for students to take pride in their cultural identity.
“I want it to become something that everyone looks forward to watching and looks forward to inviting their family over to come watch,” Lopez said. “[I] just finally [have] something to represent our culture with and just something to be really proud of.”