Cal Poly’s Imagen Y Espiritu performs as part of a traditional Mexican dance group.
Cal Poly’s Imagen Y Espiritu performs as part of a traditional Mexican dance group.

As the music sounds and the footwork begins, Imagen Y Espiritu Ballet Folklorico de Cal Poly is not just performing a dance, expressing the folklore of a multitude of Mexican cultures.
The club, which consists of about 15 members, learns about a specific Mexican state each quarter. They focus on the history, customs and traditions and wear elaborate costumes from states such as Jalisco, Nayarit, Guerrero and Tamaulipas.

Cal Poly alumna Silvia Aldana formed the group in 1990 and now instructs the club practices, teaching choreography for performances.

Three practices a week can be time consuming, but for architecture freshman Angela Varela, dance has become a stress reliever. “I have a full day of class and at night time I just go to practice and have fun,” she said.

Wine and viticulture freshman Maria Sotelo said that dance practice is a good workout too. “After practice we are always dead tired but it’s fun. We all just interact with each other and all just have a good time.”

The appeal of the club, members said, comes from similar ethnicities being able to gather together and learn about their heritage while attending a predominately white university. When industrial technology sophomore and club vice president Henry Castillo arrived on campus, he didn’t see many other Hispanics.

“In our Mexican culture it is more family-oriented, so everyone looks for something that they have in common and I found them,” Castillo said of the group’s members.

Before joining the club, Castillo had never danced and said she was very nervous about the prospect. He soon realized the members were friendly and willing to take it slow for the new dancers.

Sotelo also joined without experience.

“It was something I always wanted to do just never got the opportunity,” she said.

The club will perform during Open House weekend on the Dexter Lawn stage. In preparation, training was kicked up a notch.

“All we do is practice over and over,” Varela said.

“We work on skirt work and foot work,” Sotelo added.

The spotlighted Meixcan state the club is yet to be determined.

It will be between Tamaulipas, which is the region we learned in fall quarter, or Jalisco, which we are learning now,” Castillo said, adding it could be a blend of both.

The club will have a booth at Open House with information on the club, as well as Tamales for sale.

Aside from Open House, Imagen Y Espiritu, has another big performance coming up. Mexico de Noche is the climax of what the club has been working toward all year said Sotelo.

At Mexico de Noche, Imagen Y Espiritu will perform four dances from each state. The dances will come from Tamaulipas, Jalisco and Guerrero. The club has invited other high schools and colleges to perform for a total of five or six different states. This year California State University Long Beach has been invited as well a school from Salinas.

Mexico de Noche will be held at 7 p.m. on May 30 at Spanos Theatre.