Connie Benavidez couldn’t sleep a wink the night she found out that her dance troupe would march in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade on Monday.
“The dance group is my life,” she said Tuesday at The Ballet Folklorico de la Raza of Colorado Springs’ final rehearsal before leaving Friday for Washington, D.C.
She founded the ballet in 1994 with the intention of teaching local youths about the Mexican culture through folk dance and its history. Today, about 30 regular dancers are in the group, ranging in age from 7 to 32. They perform around the state in parades, at weddings and local schools and at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Memorial Park. It’s all on a volunteer basis. Benavidez, in fact, makes the elaborate costumes for the dancers. Any money they raise goes toward transportation and costumes.
The remarkable invitation came before Christmas when the Joint Task Force — National Capital Region called, said Danae Torres, a dancer as well as a company dance instructor. They were asked to apply by Dec. 31, so Torres quickly filled out the application, which secured their spot in the parade.
“It felt unreal, like, who’s kidding?” Torres said. “I’m excited, anxious, nervous and extremely honored. We have a lot of support. People are surprised and happy for us.”
In all, more than 2,800 online applications were submitted from across the country. The selection was based on several criteria, including, “how each group would represent our nation’s history, diversity and commitment to service,” committee member Aoife McCarthy wrote in an email. The nonprofit groups, including marching bands, drill teams, dance groups and others, will represent each state in this year’s
The ballet company practices numerous dances from the eight regions of Mexico, for example, the La Negra, Alazanas and El Tilingo Lingo — all replete with foot stomping, twirling and arm flourishes.
Sixteen of the group’s 30 regular dancers will march in the parade, said dancer Maria Nieves, who is the director of the nonprofit organization and also Benavidez’s granddaughter.
“We want to go out there and look our best and look sharp,” Nieves said. “We’re representing our state. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The troupe arrived in Washington on Friday and will perform on CNN and Telemundo over the weekend. On Sunday, it will decorate the truck that will accompany those in the
It will march Monday in the second division of parade entries, according to an inauguration committee news release Friday.
The invitation to represent the state of Colorado was priceless, but funding the trip is a challenge for the small group. The price tag to fly there, rent hotel rooms and equipment is steep, about $16,000, Nieves said. All participants in the Inaugural Parade must pay for their lodging and transportation. They’ve spent the past few weeks raising funds and securing sponsorships from friends, family and groups that include SignShop Limited, the local Cinco De Mayo committee and the American G.I. Forum Right now, though, they’re not even halfway there.
Nevertheless, Benavidez said the cost is well worth it.
“I’m proud of the girls and their work through the years. Everybody should be proud,” Benavidez said.
To make a donation toward the trip, call Benavidez at 683-2162.