WALLINGFORD — The School of Music at the Spanish Community of Wallingford includes a variety of opportunities, including instruments, singing and dancing.
The Mexican folklore dance program is one that has been particularly well received.
Evangeline Mendoza Bourgois, founder and director of SCOW’s School of Music, started her private program in 2008. In 2010, she was invited to bring her school to SCOW and operate under its umbrella.
Julieta Rodriguez, volunteer instructor of SCOW’s dance program, was running a school of dance for children at the same time. Rodriguez had her group of students perform mainly during events at Most Holy Trinity Church in Wallingford.
Bourgois said that soon after she joined SCOW, a lot of the children that Rodriguez was working with started learning instruments at SCOW’s School of Music.
In 2013, Rodriguez partnered with SCOW to teach dance to the students involved in the School of Music.
Children had been learning to sing and to play instruments.
“And then, they were very, very prepared for the dancing so she was able to just incorporate the dance with great ease,” Bourgeois said.
The dance program includes traditional folklore dance outfits that are ordered from Mexico.
Rodriguez said SCOW’s dance program has incorporated various Mexican dances as most Mexican states have a folklore dance and outfit specific to the region.
Rodriguez explained she also ran a dance program for women and their daughters at Holy Trinity. They performed at special religious and cultural events such as the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
She said, eventually, the group of mothers and daughters joined SCOW’s dance program. The adult women only dance as needed for special events.
SCOW’s dance program has performed at community events such as Celebrate Wallingford.
Bourgois said that normally, when local organizations host events, they ask SCOW’s music and dance programs to perform. Sometimes the parents of the children in the music program also take care of preparing Mexican dishes to serve at the events.
Re-starting the program
Since the beginning of the pandemic, SCOW put its music and dance programs on hold. The plan is to re-start the program in September.
The music program runs along with the academic year, ending in June with a big concert.
About 14 boys and girls were part of the dance program prior to the pandemic. The program will re-start with the children that were part of the program already and then it will be open to the public.
Rodriguez said the main challenge in re-starting will be ensuring families feel safe to start sending the children to rehearsals. She said the fact that vaccines have not been made available to young children might cause some hesitancy among parents.
Children are normally happy to be part of the program because it helps them learn about their roots and culture, Rodriguez said. In addition, it helps them practice and grow their Spanish language abilities.
Dances from other cultures
Bourgois said at some point people were starting to question why the dance program was specific to Mexican folklore.
She explained the invitation has always been open to people from other cultures to go to SCOW and teach their traditional dances, but they have not been successful in finding teachers.
“Julieta and I decided that we would find some dance that was unique to all Hispanics and we chose sevillanas from Sevilla,” Bourgois said.
Sevillanas is a folk dance similar to flamenco. Rodriguez ended up going to a flamenco school in New Haven with three of the SCOW dance students. After they learned the dance, they started to teach it at SCOW right before the start of the pandemic.
Rodriguez explained that it is beneficial to involve children in SCOW’s dance program because it opens up opportunities to learn other dances.
“Since they have the base for the dances, the basic steps and the ease to dance, it’s very easy for them to incorporate any type of dance,” Rodriguez said.