Outreach Dance Camp will teach youth about Hispanic heritage

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They're dancing to keep the Hispanic heritage alive in New Mexican children and teenagers, and this month Los Niños de Santa Fe will be hosting an Outreach Dance Camp in Valencia County.

Depending on the level of interest the organization receives from the community through the camp, they may make the program a permanent fixture here.

The organization utilizes traditional Mexican dances as a way for children to learn about their Hispanic heritage and embrace their culture, said Stephanie Sena de Mascareña, dance camp coordinator.

Ballet folklorico, a type of Mexican folk dance, is used to teach children not only about their cultural history, but also life skills that build character.

These skills include being positive role models, having respect for others, demonstrating responsibility, helping others and cooperation, Sena de Mascareña said.

"It teaches all of those elements needed in order to be a productive citizen or a productive person in general," she said. "I have never seen a child that has not picked up these skills, because of the structure of the program.

"Its expectations are high," she said. "Not high enough where it's difficult to reach them, but high because we know kids are capable of reaching them."

The program, geared toward boys and girls ranging from 3 to 18 years old, has served northern New Mexico for more than 20 years, Sena de Mascareña said.

Los Niños de Santa Fe participants perform from May to November in museums, such as The Museum of International Folk Art, statewide venues, such as the state fair, and local venues, such as Our Lady of Belen Fiestas.

In the program, participants are taught more than 20 traditional dances from the federal states of Mexico, such as Yucatán, Michoacán, and Chiapas, and one from Spain.

"From there, what we do is teach the significance of the dance, where it came from, the history and why the costumes look the way they do," she said.

Branching out to Valencia County was the idea of Bryan Mascareña, Stephanie's husband, after he noticed there wasn't a group in the area providing these services.

"When he saw the dance group, he felt that it was something that would really work well within Valencia County, Belen and that whole general area," she said

The Outreach Dance Camp is scheduled from Friday, Oct. 12, through Saturday, Oct. 13, when they'll have dance instruction in practice performance costumes.

Each age group is taught individually by semi-professional dancers with more than 25 years of dancing experience before the entire group reconvenes to dance together.

"We'll reevaluate the interest in the community and possibly proceed forward with making a permanent home in Valencia County," she said.

The following camps will be held in January and April.

• Classes for those 3 to 6 years old is $30, 7 to 11 years old is $35 and 12 to 18 years old is $40.

Registration forms are available online at www.losninosdesantafe.org.

For more information on Los Niños de Santa Fe Outreach Dance Camp, call Stephanie Sena de Mascareña Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and anytime during the weekend at 573-4180.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.