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Ballet Folklórico Ritmo Alegre

Nine different regions in Mexico will be represented in an evening of traditional dance presented by Ballet Folklórico Ritmo Alegre.

The troupe will hold its 10th annual dance concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at South Medford High School auditorium, 815 Oakdale Ave., Medford. More than 75 young people in folk costumes will perform.

Ballet Folkórico Ritmo Alegre's mission is "promoting the cultural traditions and values of Mexican culture through the preservation of folk art and dance in the Rogue Valley," said director Victoria Snow Mountain.

The dance troupe has been in existence for 14 years. "We started a little club at South Medford High School," Snow Mountain said. "One of the parents was a Ballet Folklórico teacher from Mexico. We did it for two years and the kids were still into it. The kids and I made an agreement to keep practicing and performing."

The group has a wing at South Medford High School's multicultural club. The bulk of the organization is part of the community-wide Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon. Activities include providing dance classes for school-age children and adults in various community locations, training its Youth Performance Company and performing in many venues both locally and regionally.

Dance classes for school-age children and youth are offered in Talent, Medford and White City, with new sessions starting in March. Adult classes are also offered in Medford.

The group's most active and advanced group is its Youth Performance Company, known in Spanish as the Grupo de Gala. Membership is by audition and its current roster includes 12 young people from four local high schools as well as Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University. Each of these dancers has trained for an average of five years. They practice twice a week and perform an average of two to four times a month year-round.

Snow Mountain said Ballet Folklórico Ritmo Alegre aims to keep Mexican cultural traditions alive and to help young Latinos feel proud of themselves and their heritage. "One of the reasons we do so many regions in our show is that people want to dance their own region. The costumes and style of music is different. It's a real sharing philosophy rather than competitive."

The group's grant-funded Cultural Ambassador Program includes leadership and dance-instructor training for the Youth Performance Company members and dance-tuition scholarships for low-income children. Program participants learn public speaking and leadership skills and are trained as assistant dance instructors. This will make it possible for them to take a larger role in managing their public performances and help teach dance classes, serving as mentors for younger dancers.

Each year Performance Company members travel to California to attend the annual Danzantes Unidos Conference. As many as 80 ballet folklórico dance troupes meet for a weekend of workshops and performances in which they learn new techniques from various regions.

Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students and $4 for ages 11 and younger. Call 261-1906.

The Youth Performance Company of Ballet Folklórico Ritmo Alegre poses in Mexican folk costumes for its 2007 dance show. - Photo by Andrew Kemp