As concerts, festivals, and art galleries around the United States have shut down or canceled events in the face of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, Ballet Folklorico at The Muckenthaler Center still goes on.
In a mix of English and Spanish, CEO Farrell Hirsch welcomed an audience of cars to honk or blink their lights in appreciation of the dance.
In between moments of silence were explosions of honks vibrating through the amphitheater that mimicked the roar of a real crowd. The audience was instructed to stay in their vehicles, but many were seen crawling within the beds of their trucks and on the roofs of their sedans.
Hirsch notes that, although attendance has stayed more or less the same, their audience is bringing people in from across city lines, collecting calls from as far as New Jersey about their performances. At the show, fellow Ballet Folklorico dancer, Irvind Garcia, traveled from Los Angeles to Fullerton to see them play.
“You came here from Los Angeles? We live right across the street,” exclaimed one attendee.
Formed by “Coco” choreographer Kareli Montoya in 2011, Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles is a Mexican folk dance company that has performed alongside Grammy-award winning artists on well-known stages across Southern California.
Thursday’s performance featured dancers young and old showcasing a variety of skills. Speakers provided the music, but their shoes aided the beat, rhythmically striking the floor. At one point, they played a remix of “Beauty and the Beast” with costumes to match. A young boy swirled a rope in loops around his body.
However, despite almost a decade of experience, COVID-19 presented a new challenge for Montoya. A lot of her performers were coming back to the stage after almost a year-long absence. Rehearsals only started taking place three weeks ago.
“It’s hard because a lot of the dances they do are very intense. It’s like running a marathon,” said Montoya on the challenges of finding a proper mask for her performers.
They settled for a clear mask. There was enough room for their mouths to perform their distinct vocalizations while also allowing them to breathe. Those wearing dresses could show off their colorful lipstick.
Other issues, like the size of the stage, presented a challenge for Montoya who, under normal circumstances, performed with her husband’s mariachi group. Nevertheless, they performed the best that they could under the circumstances provided.
“Our mission statement is to enrich the human spirit through the arts,” Hirsch said, “It doesn’t say only when it’s easy or only when times are good; I think our regular audience has been thanking us.”
For the list of future events at The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, please visit https://themuck.org.