ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For nearly 30 years, Israela Garcia has given back to the community through dance and education.
She and her sister, Felissa, began Baila! Baila! Dance Academy in 1990 to teach children and adults the art of ballet folklorico or traditional Mexican folk dance.
The company performs a number of shows throughout the year.
It’s “Christmas in New Mexico” has become a family tradition over the years.
“I try to put new and interesting numbers in the performance,” Garcia says. “I also try to keep the favorites. We try to put in new regions of dance and new costumes. It’s always difficult because are dealing with a cast of 80 people.”
One piece that is in the annual event is “Christmas Around the World.” It features Christmas dances from Italy, Austria, Germany and New York City.
“I took this number out one year, and people were not having it,” she says. “So I’ve become attuned to what the audience wants to see. It’s a balance, for sure. And we also want to give the audience something special every year.”
Garcia says there is also a special segment called, “An Old Fashioned Christmas,” which pleases the audience.
There are months of preparation for the show.
Garcia says rehearsals begin for this show right after the New Mexico State Fair ends in mid-September.
She keeps a packed schedule for the dancers so they can gain experience.
“We get each dancer in a role that will get them used to a production,” she says. “There is so much involved. It takes a lot of commitment from the dancers for this show. It’s amazing to see the dancers grow year after year. We’ve been doing this for so long that we have second-generation dancers coming in to perform.”
Garcia also takes members of the company on trips to learn more about Mexican folk dance.
“Earlier this year, we went to Guadalajara,” she says. “I like to expose the dancers to true art of Mexican folk dance. To be given the opportunity is priceless.”