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October 25, 2021 News

Irving Dual-Language Elementary School students discover the culture of dance

SC Journal Jalisco Dancers
Camila rehearses dances in honor of Day of the Dead. Photo courtesy of The Sioux City Journal's Earl Horlyk.

Twirling around in a colorful Jalisco dress in an Irving Dual Language Elementary School classroom, Aria Mobley is learning how to do a folkloric dance that originated in Guadalajara, Mexico.

But she is also discovering the meaning behind the movement.

“If people ask me what the Day of the Dead is, I want to show them and tell them what it means,” Aria, a third grader, explained.

Aria is one the K-5th grade students participating in the La Perla Tapatia dance troupe, which was co-founded by retired Irving teacher Dave Lillie more than a decade ago.

“Many Irving students have families from (the Mexican state of) Jalisco,” he said. “The children are renewing their heritage by learning the dances of  (Jalisco’s capital city) Guadalajara.”

This is especially important for parents who fear their children may become too “Americanized,” Lillie explained.

“You have to know where you’re from in order to know where you’re going,” he said, while kindergarten teacher Maria Guzman nodded her head.

“Families don’t want to let their culture die,” she said. “It is why customs like dancing is passed down from one generation to the next.”

Guzman first learned how to do the Día de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) dance in a Jalisco school before she and her family moved to America.

Día de los Muertos — which typically begins on Oct. 31 and ends on Nov. 2 — is a joyous time when families and friends pray for and celebrate the memories of people who’ve passed away.

In other words, Day of the Dead allow those who have died to live again through activities like dance or the building of ofrendas (or altars), which usually contain favorite items or foods associated with the family members, along with bright flowers, candles, photos and other items.

See the whole story by The Sioux City Journal’s Earl Horlyk here.