Ballet Folklórico Tapatío of Northwest Indiana was started in 2009 with a group of middle school girls, and in 2010 I began recruiting 5 year olds and we practiced in my kitchen. The group has since grown to include 30 dancers, both boys and girls from the ages of 4-18. Our practices are held in Portage and we are always accepting new members.
My name is Marissela Villanueva Lynch. I am a full-time Business Education teacher at Willowcreek Middle School in Portage, IN. I have been teaching for 17 years, but before that, I was an accountant. And now, in addition to my teaching career, I am the director and dance instructor for this wonderful group. I began dancing at the age of 3 in the group Ballet Folklórico Fiesta Mexicana, under the direction of Daniel Martinez. When I turned 8 years old however, my family moved from Lake County to Porter County, and my father was no longer able to take me to dance classes due to his work schedule. That was in 1977. I never dreamed that over 30 years later, there still would not exist a Ballet Folklórico group in Porter County.
In 1995, my mom met Dr. Jose Arredondo, director of the Ballet Folklórico of East Chicago. He asked if I would volunteer to be their dance instructor over the summer while their regular instructor was gone. I jumped at the chance of belonging to a Ballet Folklórico group, and It wasn't until my first few practices that I realized how much of the Mexican culture I grew up without. I was fortunate the three dance instructors I have worked under have all trained with the world renowned Ballet Folklórico of Amalia Hernandez. I told myself if a group did not exist in Porter County by the time I had a daughter, I would begin my own. And so I did.
It was never my intention to host an annual event or for my group to become a performance group. After our first recital in 2012 however, I began receiving a consistent stream of performance requests from people as far away as Illinois and Lafayette, IN. Obviously there was a need, especially in the Northwest Indiana area as many of the ballet folklórico groups began disappearing. Now we are being booked a year in advance for Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations.
BFT of NWI is fortunate to have as a mentor Mr. Daniel Martinez, founder/director/instructor of Fiesta Mexicana Dance Co. of Arizona (click the "more" tab for information on FMDC). Mr. Martinez has not only participated in our annual event, but has also sent his Fiesta Mexicana dancers to train and teach our students...for free. We thank him and all of the FMDC crew in Arizona for taking the time to come to Portage and share their knowledge with us.
*BFT of NWI received its 501(c)(3) non-profit designation in January 2015. It is my hope that this change in structure will help us secure sponsorships and funding that will allow us to continue to make our classes affordable and accessible, to purchase costumes for each of our dancers and more importantly allow us to continue to perform for the community.
*We plan to follow in the footsteps of our mentor Mr. Daniel Martinez by expanding our repertoire of dances to include not only those from other Latin American countries, but also dances that represent the good old USA.