By Jessica Peña and The Ensemble

About Jessica Peña


Recently graduated of the M.A. in the Performance as Public Practice Program



In 2014, Peña Torres graduated Summa Cum Laude from The University of Texas—Pan American (now The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) with a B.A. in Dance, B.A. in Theatre and a minor in Spanish. At UTPA, Peña Torres performed with the Latino Theatre Initiatives, the UTPA Dance Ensemble and the UTPA Ballet Folklórico. In both Mexico and the U.S, Jessica has had a chance to work and perform for big and small arts organizations, such as Shakespeare Theatre Company, Montero Dance Company, Academia de Danza Condesa, Compañía de Danza Kaana, the Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México de Silvia Lozano, PPP GSA, and Texas Theatre and Dance.

A Note from La Directora!

Colorful costumes, sonrisas Colgate, romantic couples dancing to traditional sones and headpieces that not even Lady Gaga could dream of… ballet folklórico claims to offer its audience a taste of Mexico’s cultural diversity. From the hot Sonoran desert, to the joyful celebrations in the port of Veracruz, to the courtship dances of Jalisco, México appears in the ballet folklórico stage as magical and as large as a fairytale faraway land.

Through hard work that includes hours of class and rehearsals, ballet folklórico has managed to place Mexico’s name next to that of countries with world-renowned dance companies such as Russia, France, and the United States. Through its cuadros (dance suites), the trained ballet folklórico dancers patriotically portray the image of a “perfect México” that often includes tropes such as mariachi, los charros, la china poblana, and the noble and savage Indian.

As a first-year student of the Performance as Public Practice program of the University of Texas at Austin, I was eager to study Mexico’s one and only ballet folklórico form through a social, cultural, and historical lens to deepen my own understanding of the unique dance style. My experience as a professional dancer for the Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México taught me about the hours and the discipline that it takes to dance Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Norte, Veracruz, Jalisco, and many other regions that I had never even had the pleasure of visiting. Performing ballet folklórico, I faithfully thought, was a chance to rescue Mexico’s cultural history and diversity and I, a twenty-something-year old, had the privilege to do it.

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