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Building Their Self-Esteem One Dance Step at a Time

August 13, 1992|EDMUND NEWTON

For three years now, the Los Angeles Mexican Dance Company has taken raw youngsters from East Los Angeles, Pico Union and elsewhere and turned them into disciplined performers.

Audiences in the metropolitan area have come to expect a combination of youthful passion and meticulous training from the 20-member company, whose rehearsal space is in the downtown Los Angeles produce market district, and its rousing brand of theatrical folk dancing.

If you see a similarity between the company's renditions of "La Revolucion," or "Danza del Venado (Dance of the Deer)" and performances by the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, it's more than coincidental. Los Angeles-born director Carola de la Rocha danced with the renowned Mexican troupe in the late 1970s.

"My mission was to come back and do something in Los Angeles," said de la Rocha, who has taught dance in Japan and in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The most gratifying part of her task, de la Rocha said, is watching her charges flower.

"A lot of them walked in with their arms folded and their eyes down to the floor," she said. "Now they stand up straight. Now they have self-esteem."

Many of her dancers rehearse 20 to 25 hours a week, de la Rocha said.

The company will perform Saturday at the Huntington Library in San Marino as part of the Latino Folklore Festival, which is sponsored by the Huntington Library and the Hispanic Quincentennial Committee of Los Angeles. The performance, which includes Alfonso Escalante's nimble portrayal of a skittish deer, begins at 4 p.m. Suggested donation is $5.

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