Fresno State’s Los Danzantes de Aztlán Mexican folkloric dance troupe celebrates its 45th anniversary this year with an action-packed summer including an invitation to the international San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival June 5-29. Los Danzantes de Aztlan is one of only two Mexican folkloric dance groups selected for the festival.
The student dancers will perform at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco June 21 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and June 22 (2 p.m.).
Two other events this month are:
- The Second Annual Los Danzantes de Aztlán Scholarship Dinner in memory of Ernesto Martinez from 6-9 p.m. Friday, June 13, hosted by University President Joseph I. Castro and his wife Mary at the University House in Fresno (4411 N. Van Ness Ave.). Tickets are $50 and tables of 10 are $500. All proceeds go toward the scholarships. Tickets will not be issued and reservations will be held at the door. RSVPs will still be accepted through Monday. June 9 pending availability call 559.278.2848 for updates.
- The Spring Folklorico Show — “Ojos de Juventud,” at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 14 in the Satellite Student Union on campus. Presented in collaboration with Arte Americas and the Danzantes del Valle Advisory Committee, the show highlights the various children’s folkloric dance groups in the Valley and exposes young dancers and their families to the university. In addition to Fresno State’s troupe, the show will feature performances by Ballet Folklorico and Marimba de Fresno, Los Niños Azteca, Maravillas de Selma, Ballet Folklorico de Madera, Ballet Folklorico Orgullo Mexicano-Juvenil, Compania de Danza El Sol-Juvenil and Los Danzantes de Aztlán-Juvenil. Tickets are $10 at the door.
Founded in 1970 by the late Ernesto Martinez, an emeritus professor and alumnus of Fresno State, Los Danzantes has the distinction of being the only program of its kind in the California State University system to be designated an official ambassador of the university.
Martinez, who died June 7, 2010, “was a key figure in the development of folkloric dance in the Central Valley and one of a handful of pioneers in California who helped develop Mexican folklórico dance in the 1960s,” said Dr. Victor Torres, director of Los Danzantes and professor of Fresno State’s Chicano and Latin American Studies Department.
He said the scholarship dinner honors the legacy of Martinez “by supporting students who possess the same passion and commitment of Mexican folkloric dance as he did.”
Martinez created the first high school folkloric dance curriculum in the Valley when he taught at Selma High School (1965-69) and helped establish similar programs at Clovis High and Roosevelt High.
Martinez was also a founding member of Arte America’s board of directors, the National Association of Folkloric Dance groups (Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folkloricos), Chicano Alumni and the ChicanoLatino Commencement. He was presented the Chicano Alumni Legacy Award in 2009.
“He was a true pioneer who forged a path that many have taken since and he inspired generations of students to pursue academic excellence and instilled in them the importance of community service,” Torres said.
Los Danzantes de Aztlán takes the world stage in San Francisco later this month where the Fresno State students will perform Mexican dances known as “calabaceados” that originate from the northern part of Baja California –high-kicking, boot-stomping, energetic numbers.
“We are very excited about representing Fresno and Fresno State in this prestigious event, the largest ethnic dance festival in the country,” Torres said. “Being selected to perform after only one audition is a testament to our students’ dedication and commitment to excellence and professionalism.”
Torres said Los Danzantes’ selection to perform in the largest ethnic dance festival in the nation bolsters its position as a highly-respected Mexican dance troupe not only in California but also in the Southwest and in Mexico.
President Castro commended Torres and the Fresno State dancers, noting “this is another achievement in the long list of achievements by Los Danzantes de Aztlán that is a prime example of the university’s commitment to discovery, diversity and distinction. This program has made significant contributions to the cultural life of students, the university and the community.”
Under Torres’ tutelage, the troupe has earned top honors in international and national competitions and is considered an associate group of the world-renown Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Mexico de Silvia Lozano.