Michelle Carillo began traditional Mexican dancing, or ballet folklorico, at five years old when her grandmother took her to the Santa Clara County Fair and signed her up to dance with a group. She continued dancing until she was 16 and while she enjoyed expressing herself through dance, she did not imagine that one day she would help other children enjoy the same cultural experience she did as a child.
Since 2006 Carillo has taught students at Osborn Elementary the same traditional steps she was taught at the Santa Clara County Fair in what started as a small venture with her son and just two other students and has since grown to 50 students practicing twice a week.
"I really enjoyed dancing and when I started working at Osborn we had a new assistant principal who came from a school that had a group. She asked if I was interested in teaching, and even though I had no experience, I tried and loved it so I am thankful to have the opportunity to teach what I always enjoyed doing," said Carillo.
The Osborn dancing troupe, Los Luceros or The Stars, practice dancing to various rhythms, counting steps, and learning the proper footwork, all skills the students put to practice by performing in front of large crowds. What started as performances at school events such as Back to School Night and Open House has since grown to shows for the community. In the next month, Los Luceros will be performing at the Turlock Relay for Life, Oakdale Chocolate Festival and the Ceres Street Fair.
"The shy students are now more comfortable dancing and their confidence has increased," said Carillo. "I see that they show up to practice regularly, which shows me that they really enjoy it."
Los Luceros also have hosted several fundraisers to finance the authentic costumes the students perform in which include colorful skirts for the girls and authentic Charro outfits for the boys, namely a cowboy hat, white button up shirt and a vest. While Carillo has ordered costumes from a store in Texas, downtown business Rainbow Fabrics has also made dresses for the girls as well as parents who have hand sewn items. Los Luceros has blossomed into more than an extracurricular activity for Osborn students as it has afforded Carillo the opportunity to continue to share her culture through dance.
"The kids enjoy it and that makes me happy, but the thing that makes me feel the most good is when the grandparents comment to me about how it brings memories back for them," said Carillo.
Carillo aims to expand the course to the entire community and those interested in participating can contact her at email@example.com.