Ballet Folklorico Leads 16 de Septiembre Festivities

St. Vincent 16 de Septiembre celebration
Thursday, Sept. 16
6 p.m.–parade from St. Vincent Pallotti Catholic Church to Sears Park
6:45 p.m.–Festivities at Sears Park, including Ballet Folklorico, mariachi band, and more
All events are free, and the public is invited
16 de Septiembre celebrations honor Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1810. Sept. 16 is believed to be the day that a cry for independence went out from Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest who was one of the leaders fighting for Mexico’s independence.

By LORETTA FULTON

Like an artist with a palette, Damis Hernandez skillfully and artfully creates a visual feast every time she pieces together a new costume for one of the female dancers in Ballet Folklorico.

She makes most of the costumes for the male dancers, too, but it’s the swirling, lavish skirts, created in vibrant colors, that mesmerize the audience.

Hernandez’ handiwork was on display in its full glory when Ballet Folklorico performed twice in August at the Paramount Theater. The dancers will perform again Thursday, Sept. 16, at 6:45 p.m. at Sears Park as part of the 16 de Septiembre celebration, which pays tribute to Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1810.

The Sept. 16 observance and Ballet Folklorico both are sponsored by St. Vincent Pallotti Catholic Church. Hernandez’ creations are a collaboration between the ballet’s director, Alvaro Munoz, and herself. Munoz selects the colors and patterns to fit the performance.

“Then she puts it together for me,” Munoz said of Hernandez. 

Damis Hernandez with one of her costumes for Ballet Folklorico. Photo by Loretta Fulton

The final product, especially when seen as the dancers are moving to lively music onstage, is stunning. The colors of the skirts flow together as the dancers swirl, creating a visual delight. The costumes, combined with the expert dancing, music, and stage sets, create a magical performance. The Ballet was founded in 1973 at St. Vincent by Martha Munoz de Serrano, who is the aunt of the current director, Munoz. Under Munoz’ direction, the Ballet is in popular demand. It is booked for all weekends in October and November, including a performance on Oct. 15 at the Abilene Woman’s Club. 

An even bigger audience may soon see Abilene’s own Ballet Folklorico on television. Munoz has been contacted twice about the group being in a commercial for a major car brand. He is waiting on the third callback to see if Ballet Folklorico will be included. 

Hernandez, 50, moved to Abilene from Mexico thirty years ago and has been a member of St. Vincent for eight years. She began learning how to sew from her mother when she was fifteen and perfected her craft by studying under a pro for two years. 

Hernandez speaks limited English, but her costumes speak for themselves. She will soon start making seventy dresses and thirty male costumes for a performance that is scheduled for Aug. 20, 2022, at the Paramount Theater. Hernandez gives Munoz a set price, including the materials, and he happily pays it out of the Ballet Folklorico budget.

“It’s good money,” Munoz said, “but it’s a lot of work.”

Hernandez estimates that it takes one week to make each dress and one day for each male costume. So, how will she create that many costumes in less than a year?

“No sleep,” she said through Munoz. 

The performance in August 2022 will include some of the same music and routines as the August 2021 performance. But some of the original sets will be left out and others added.

“You’ve got to keep it fresh,” Munoz said. 

“Mi Tierra Mexicana,” presented in August at the Paramount, featured traditional dances from five regions of Mexico–Los Concheros, Nuevo León, Guerrero, Veracruz, and Jalisco. Three of those regions will be represented in the 2022 performance, along with music and dances from two additional regions. 

When Hernandez isn’t busy making costumes, which isn’t often, she spends time with her husband, Isidoro, who  is retired, and their three grown children. Their son and two daughters all live in Abilene. None of them followed their mother’s footsteps when it came to mastering sewing. Maybe that was because their mother demands perfection, Munoz hinted.

“She’s very detailed,” he said, “and she’s very picky.”

Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene

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