Dancing to Your Roots

A local dance instructor keeps her Spanish tradition alive through dance.

By Elizabeth Sehon
Photo by Azul Sordo

 

Anastasia Flores’ life’s fabric has been woven by the richness of Mexican and Salvadorian culture, and she has recently dedicated her dancing career to preserving Spanish tradition by launching a dance company primarily dedicated to Ballet Folklórico.

The Fort Worth native was 6 years old when she saw a dance ensemble of brightly colored skirts bouncing  in the air as they floated across the stage to lively Hispanic music performing at a church festival — she fell in love with Ballet Folklórico from that moment on. “Right after my parents signed me up for the dance, and as a young child, I knew right away this was it,” Anastasia says.

Anastasia’s parents, who performed Ballet Folklórico in high school, heavily influenced her passion for the Spanish culture; her father is Mexican-American and mother is Salvadorian, but she also says Amalia Hernández Navarro, founder of Ballet Folklórico de Mexican in 1952, inspired her to be confident as a female leader. Amalia was a pioneer and founder of the most famous Ballet Folklórico in the world during a time when men dominated the dance and choreographer arena, which still fascinates and influences Anastasia, who is now 25.

Years later, and after graduating from Texas Christian University in 2021, Anastasia made the move to start Anastasia Flores Dance Company, which practices inside the United Performing Arts Company studio, after an unfortunate dismantling of the business where she once taught.

Other than her role as female business owner, Anastasia takes on many positions within her company — director, main instructor and choreographer — but says her favorite part is building a familial bond and community with her students who are of all ages and backgrounds. She brings her unique approach to the competitiveness of the dance world, which can be harsh at times, leading to low morale for students and instructors, but Anastasia says her goal as an instructor is to teach her students to brush off the negativity and to compete with themselves, rather than others.

“It’s very competitive, and it can get hateful and envious, which breaks my heart,” she says. “When we go to competition, of course we want to win, but overall, we just want to be the best that we can be — that’s the most beautiful part.”

Anastasia says Ballet Folklórico blends traditional Spanish folk music, dance and costumes by heightening these traditions into more extravagant expressions known as Spectacular Dance, which is what it sounds like — a vibrant, colorful and elaborate spectacle.

She also describes the two fundamentals pertinent to the ballet: the faldeo (skirt movements) and pasos (foot movement) techniques that are specific to each Spanish region. Many movements and costumes began with the Mexican Revolution.

Skirt colors and design also help identify certain Spanish regions, and that skirt décor keeps evolving with sequins, ribbons and colors. But yellow, red, blue, green, purple, pink and red are among the many “bright and happy colors” used today that make the dance so vibrant, she says. “Red is used a lot for no particular reason — possibly because red is a color of passion, love and sangra [blood],” Anastasia says.

And that same passion is what also drives the Fort Worth Hispanic community to carry on the time-honored dance to future generations, she says. Alex Gutierrez, dancer and instructor for Fort Worth-based Compañia Folklorica Mexico, has been teaching Ballet Folklórico for more than eight years. Ballet Folklórico is “ballet and folk dance that our old people danced to, and we represent that tradition,” Alex says.

He says for many of his students, the dance signifies much more than gaiety and entertainment. “The children that were born here, and not in Mexico like their families, are brought here [Compañia Folklorica México] to learn the culture and to carry on traditions,” Alex says.

Anastasia admits that she’s still learning about the rich history of Ballet Folklórico but has found a new outlook and sense of assurance after creating her own female-led company. “My self-worth as a person and as a woman has gone up immensely,” she says. “I feel worthy in the community, strong and empowered — I know what my dreams are and can let go of negativity so that I can build my empire.” 

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