Dance Of Light: Student expresses her love of Ballet Folklorico

Shelby Township sophomore Regina Araujo-Pedroza, 19, dances Ballet Folklorico on Get-Acquainted stage to showcase the RSO she started last year.

Her dress is bright blue, fluffy, with red, pink, yellow, turquoise and white stripes following the seam. Her hair is a tightly braided bun with a hairpiece around it. Her face is touched up with makeup and red lipstick. Her presence reflects the composure of a professional dancer. 

Stepping on stage, Shelby Township sophomore Regina Araujo-Pedroza grabs hold of each side of her dress. She poses at center stage. Once the music begins, she begins to shuffle as the music moves her feet.

“I have my heart in it,” Araujo-Pedroza said. “There is passion in (my dancing) because it's my culture.”

Learning and teaching Ballet Folklorico has been part of Araujo-Pedroza's life since she was a little girl. She said studying Mexican culture connects her to her family, but teaching gives her a way to pass on her traditions.

Now, she's sharing those traditions with the CMU community. 

Last year, Araujo-Pedroza started a registered student organization called "Ballet Folklorico de la luz." In English, that translates to "Folk Ballet of the light." Araujo-Pedroza said students who join the RSO learn the dance as a way of self-expression and telling traditional Mexican stories.

“You are helping continue these stories and passing them on through generations, just like they were passed down to the people teaching me so I can teach other people,” Araujo-Pedroza said.

Ballet Folklorico De La Luz members dance during their outdoor recital, April 30 outside Moore Hall.

Araujo-Pedroza is passing down the stories of her father Gino, a Mexican immigrant. He recalled his younger years - going to parties and watching people dance Ballet Folklorico with his family members.

He said the purpose of De La Luz is to tell stories that represent each of the 32 states of Mexico, express who they are, and passing down culture beyond the dancer's years

"Sometimes when I see my kids dancing I feel goosebumps because it reminds me of my childhood and I am so proud of her," Gino said. "She's been learning more about the background of every song and she's really dedicated to that. I know when they are dancing how happy they feel."

Shelby Township sophomore Regina Araujo-Pedroza dances La Morena at the outdoor folklorico recital on campus, April 30

Araujo-Pedroza said the dance itself is a mix of different influences from ethnic groups in Mexico. Some are Spanish, some are German influences from Nothern Mexico, other influences come from the indigenous communities.  

Jaime Carrillo is Araujo-Pedroza’s dance instructor and founder of Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel, Araujo-Pedroza's Detroit-based dance group.

Carrillo said the group dances three different dances. One is based on pre-Columbian dances. Another is based off the mixture of indigenous people, the Spanish conquest and everyone else that came into Mexico. The others are traditional that come from small towns and cities in Mexico in celebration of a certain festivity. 

“She is an excellent dancer and she’s very disciplined," Carrillo said. "You can see it in her eyes and in her expression of dancing, the way she moves, and the way she listens to music.”

Even though Carrillo has only been teaching Araujo-Pedroza since May, he has noticed that she has great love and passion for the dance.

Araujo-Pedroza said she knew CMU was trying to create a welcoming, diverse campus for new students. However, when Araujo-Pedroza arrived on campus for the Fall 2020 semester, she noticed a lack of multicultural dance groups.

Her goal was to create a group that was both thrilling and educational.

Sophomore Sophia Scarnecchia is the vice president of the RSO. Scarnecchia originally joined to support Araujo-Pedroza as she started the new RSO, but has also enjoyed dancing and has learned a lot about Hispanic culture.

Scarnecchia said that Araujo-Pedroza gives cultural presentations during RSO meetings, teaching the members about the state of Mexico where their dance originated and about the significance of the clothing they wear while they dance.

Araujo-Pedroza even sews parts of their outfits that they perform in, like their bows and skirts.

"There's so much to a culture that we haven't learned yet as a society and I am excited to share that with (CMU)," Scarnecchia said. "I love it because it's a great source of energy and the community is very welcoming." 

Ann Arbor junior Alex Batalonga dances with his partner during outdoor folklorico recital on campus April 30.

"Ballet Folklorico De La Luz" has its first showcase event Monday, Sept. 27 from 5-6 p.m. in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Araujo-Pedroza hopes to bring more appreciation for the Mexican Culture at CMU. She would like the group to grow because she wants future Latino students to be able to find a sense of community in joining her RSO and to learn more about their culture.  

“Dancing is such a personal thing for people. It’s a way to express themselves and find their own identity,” Araujo-Pedroza said. “They are welcome to be a part of our culture even if it’s not their own culture. Maybe they feel disconnected from their culture. You are always welcome.”