Folkloric dances please admirers

FRESNO -- The female dancers put the final touches on their makeup while their male partners tucked in their shirts and made sure their boots were clean.

Two hours later, Víctor Torres was all smiles after watching four Mexican folkloric dance groups, a norteño-flavored band, and a trick roper wow a small but enthusiastic audience last Saturday night at the Woodward Park amphitheatre.

Two months ago, Torres was not planning on hosting the 30th annual El Festival de Los Danzantes at California State University, Fresno. This year's three-day festival featured workshops on music, dance and trick roping. Saturday's performance put the spotlight on calabaceado and norteños, boot-stomping dances common in northern México.

"I wasn't planning to do it," said Torres, director of Fresno State's Los Danzantes de Aztlán at Fresno State.

The festival is normally held every other year and changes locations throughout the state. However, said Torres, many dancers and directors bombarded him with e-mails and telephone calls during the Christmas break about hosting the festival again this year.

"People want to come to Fresno," said Torres.

Despite the last-minute planning and execution, Torres was pleased with this year's festival that drew about 240 dancers. "That's about what I thought was my maximum," he said.

Ernesto Martínez, who began Danzantes Unidos at Fresno State, watched Saturday's program with interest. He was pleased to see a younger generation embrace folklórico.

"I see that the interest, as far as the young kids are involved, is still there," said Martínez. "It's the cultural aspect that the parents instill in them."

Martínez noted that calabaceado has become popular in recent years.

"Banda music in the '90s really rejuvenated the interest in children to get involved in (folklórico) dance," said Martínez. "Every year, there is a new dance that's in vogue."

This past weekend, calabaceado was in vogue.

Among the groups that performed Saturday night were Los Danzantes de Aztlán, Compañía de Danza Ticuan, Paso de Oro Dance Company, and Ballet Folklórico México Azteca.

Also performing was the music group Los Hermanos Herrera and trick roper Javier Escamilla.