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Monday, September 25, 2017

Two Cowboys: Fiesta with Casa Hogar Los Angelitos Dancing Away with Ballet Folklorico in Okotoks, Alberta

The Rhythm

Music and dance have a way to transcend culture, time and place. Even more so on a Monday evening in Okotoks Alberta, as a school theatre is packed with spectators witnessing and clapping to the pumping Latin rhythms from Mexico's Ballet Folklorico.

The spectacle was courtesy of the touring dancers of Casa Hogar Los Angelitos of Manzanillo, Mexico, on their tour through the Canadian Prairie towns. The Two Cowboys was lucky to get an invite to the Okotoks performance.

We cannot stay away from people that create things - music and dance in this case - and people that care for each other.


Baile folklórico, literally "folkloric dance" in Spanish, also known as ballet folklórico is a collective term for traditional Mexican dances. It puts the emphasis on local folk culture with ballet characteristics like pointed toes and exaggerated movements, that are highly choreographed.

You will find folk dances in the villages during fiestas and not on stage. Each region in Mexico, the Southwestern United States and Central American countries is known for a handful of locally characteristic dances. On Monday 18 September, we were treated to the Mexican folkloric journey by Casa Hogar Los Angelitos students (CHLA).

CHLA is an orphanage that is providing for the needs of the homeless and forgotten children of Manzanillo. The facilities and the not-for-profit organization that supports it was founded by Nancy Nystrom and her husband, David. Their clear mission is to help develop the young people of the city that would otherwise have been destitute.

The focus is on education. Children that would otherwise not have had opportunities are given a chance and is supported to develop into skilled individuals, ready to contribute to society in Mexico once they become young adults. Since inception, CHLA has succeeded in helping several young men and women go to universities and technical schools. All activities are funded through individual sponsorships and donations by generous patrons.

What sets CHLA's approach apart is the Ballet Folklorico. Nancy Nystrom had the idea that expressive arts may help some of the children deal with their sometimes complicated pasts. It worked. Her idea has gradually progressed to where many of the children in CHLA and even some from surrounding communities have joined the Ballet Folklorico Casa Hogar Los Angelitos.

The next step was to share it with the world by taking the show on the road. This is how people in Alberta and other communities across North America are getting to see the rhythmic enthusiasm of these outstanding performers. At the same time, we all learned a little bit more of Mexico and of ourselves as we too contributed as spectators to the opportunities for these children.


The dancing was world-class. The stamina of the performers was exceptional considering they perform almost daily while on tour. The costumes were breathtaking and the rhythms contagious.

For a short while, we were all in a Mexican plaza during fiesta. Vibrant colors were everywhere. Mariachis and their songs were thumping away in a tranced tapestry of familiarity as they sing of love and heartbreak, happiness and success. People danced. Viva Mexico!

For a moment we forgot about our pasts, and we shared in the music and dance present of the students of Casa Hogar Los Angelitos. What a present it was!

Hendrik van Wyk
Fiesta Cowboy

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