Any time is a good time to celebrate the riches of the Mexican culture. But this year is special as it is the 40th anniversary of the sister-city partnership between Ashland and Guanajuato, Mexico.

Any time is a good time to celebrate the riches of the Mexican culture. But this year is special as it is the 40th anniversary of the sister-city partnership between Ashland and Guanajuato, Mexico.

To help mark the occasion, Ballet Folklórico Ritmo Alegre, the Rogue Valley's Mexican folk dance troupe, will include a series of dances saluting Guanajuato in the dance company's 11th annual dance show scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at South Medford High School Auditorium, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford. Doors open at 6 p.m.

"The show is especially relevant this year as we are helping to spotlight and celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ashland and Guanajuato Sister City Association and Southern Oregon University's Amistad program," said the dance company's director Snow Mountain. "We plan to include a set of dances from Guanajuato as a salute to our Guanajuatense friends. One of our steering committee members is from Guanajuato and married an Ashlander as a result of their participation in the Amistad program."

The dance show is a 90-minute program (including intermission) featuring traditional Mexican folk dances from nine regions of Mexico. There will be 75 dancers representing the dance troupe's Youth Performance Company, Junior Performance Company, adult group and children's dance classes. Special guests include local singer Felipe Reyes and his Estampa Mexicana dancers.

The Guanajuato set of dances will feature the women's traditional spangled skirts and the elegant charro hats produced in Guanajuato. The music will include two ranchera- style songs, "Mi Tierra es Leon, Guanajuato" ("My Home is Leon City, Guanajuato") and "Caminos de Guanajuato" ("The Highways of Guanajuato"). Both will be danced in a traditional waltz style, and for "Caminos de Guanajuato," the dancers will be joined by local singer Felipe Reyes.

Señora Chela Kocks was one of the people instrumental in forging the ties between Ashland and Guanajuato back in 1969. She found important similarities between the two towns that would help develop relationships between the two communities.

"Ashland had the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Guanajuato had the Cervantes Festival," Señora Chela said. "Ashland and Guanajuato are cultural centers of the regions, both have universities and they are nestled in between mountains."

Representatives from Guanajuato will be visiting Ashland in April. Ashland will send a delegation to Guanajuato in September.

As part of its dance show on March 7, Ballet Folklórico's Youth Performance Company (nine girls and five boys of high school and college ages) will perform Nayarit knife dances. Girls in a rainbow of satin and wide skirts will dance with boys wielding pairs of machetes who perform intricate steps and athletic feats. The dancers will be joined by the junior performance company, their "mini-me's," seven elementary-school-aged children with advanced dance training.

The Youth Performance Company will dance Sinaloa Costa. Girls dressed in tropical, colored skirts and soft blouses with cloud-like floating sleeves will perform dances that are alternately fluidly graceful and rhythmically energetic. They will be joined by the boys for the festive "Toro Mambo."

Three of the performance sets by the Youth Performance Company will feature dances from the Mexican state of Jalisco and its capital, Guadalajara. These will be performed to mariachi music. The girls will be dressed in voluminous skirts, each covered with 200 yards of ribbon and lace. The boys will be wearing handsome charro suits and hats.

Other regions whose dances will be presented include Veracruz, Yucatán and Campeche in southern, tropical Mexico; Nuevo León in northern Mexico, Tex-Mex style; and from Michoacán, Los Viejitos, the dance of the little old men and women.

Tickets are $7 adults, $5 students and $4 for children 12 and under. Family tickets are $20 (2 adults and up to 4 children). Advance tickets are available in Medford at Taquería El Gallo (Oakdale and South 12th Street) Supermercado El Gallo & La Placita (West Main Street) and in Ashland at El Tapatío Restaurant (Highway 99 two blocks past Valley View exit). Tickets also will be available at the door of the South Medford Auditorium.

Call 261-1906.