“Ballet Folklorico? Por qué? I don’t want to mom! I’m too shy and I’m not a good dancer!” I remember these were my words when I was told I was going to join Latino Network’s ballet folkorico group in 8th grade.

I felt upset. I was not happy that my mom signed me up for something I did not want to do. Driving to practice I threw a tantrum: “I’m only going once y no voy a regresar (I’m not returning)!”

Then, I walk into practice. I see a bunch of happy and cheerful kids. They’re excited. Not wanting to be there, I place myself in the back. Fellow dancers teach me my first dance steps. Then I hear the music. I get excited. It puts me in a good mood and it makes me want to dance. Now, I’m in my third year and the fellow dancers are now my friends.

With ballet folklorico I learned about the traditions of my parents’ country. I learned about Cinco de Mayo, the different regions and states of Mexico, and I learned there are so many different costumes. I learned that I can teach my friends and my future kids the stories and the music of my culture.

Before ballet folklorico, I was not very involved with my cultural tradition. I didn’t feel good about it. I was ashamed. I pushed myself away. I didn’t know where to go to learn about who I was. I just went to school and came home.

Ballet folklorico has boosted my confidence. I overcame my stage fright. The first time I had to perform, I was extremely nervous. I messed up many times in my first performance. After the second performance, I started getting more confident. Now, I know all the dances and all the songs that we perform. I get to perform in all of them. I also learned to act quickly on my feet when I have to fill in for someone if they are sick and don’t show up to a presentation.

My little brother is going to join. I hope to help him. I’m excited for him because he is also shy like I used to be. One day I hope he gets to be how I am now: with lots of confidence and not shy to talk to other people.

I’m thankful to my mom and my dance teachers. I’m also thankful for my dance friends who helped me and pushed me to get to where I am now. At school, doing presentations has gotten easier for me. I’m also in Leadership class at school. I would not have joined the class if it weren’t for the person I am now because of ballet folklorico.

Arts education is important because it helps others express themselves into music, art, drawing and many other different forms that people use to show how they feel. It’s important for people to show how they feel so you don’t get depressed and push people away. This only makes you feel lonely and dark inside. For someone who is Mexican American, arts education is very important because it helps me learn about who I am and who my family is. And for me, my family is unique and full of culture.