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Ballet Folklorico's annual fall visit to L.A. kicks off today.

September 22, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The annual tradition of Ballet Folklorico de Mexico lands at the Universal Amphitheatre this weekend for several performances, just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Mexico City-based dance company, led by the esteemed Amalia Hernandez, celebrates its 48th anniversary this year. For the 75 dancers and musicians in the group, the general theme is not la vida loca, but authentic Mexican heritage dating back to the Mayan and Aztecan culture.

At home in Mexico City, the company is headquartered at the Palace of Fine Arts, where members perform three times a week and train 300 young dancers a year. Adam Friedson, who has co-produced the ballet's tours for 13 years, said Los Angeles is like a second home to the company, which performs here every fall.

"[Los Angeles] is a city that has tens of thousands of people who are dancing folklorico dance, one of the fastest-moving dance movements in the country," Friedson said. "It also has an Hispanic community that hungers for the authentic cultural experience."

From the early years, when Friedson and his partner Julio Solorzano-Foppa began presenting the ballet, they incorporated educational and cultural components to the visits. Along with the official concerts are special free children's performances and competitions in dance and mural painting.

This year, Friedson approached Universal CityWalk about turning the promenade into a mini-festival site celebrating Mexican culture with arts workshops for kids, a mural exhibit and the music of Mexico.

"[The group has] been hugely successful because everyone knows this is the company that Amalia Hernandez founded 48 years ago," Friedson said, "And she is the sort of grandmother of this whole tradition of combining classic dance technique and folklorico traditions of Mexico. She is the most rigorous and internationally well-known proponent of this dance form."

This company's staying power is phenomenal, he added.

"If you look at dance organizations around the United States, a variety of companies are threatened because of funding issues," he said. "To have survived in an underdeveloped country for 48 years without any significant corporate or government sponsorship tradition is an amazing thing. It's a tribute to the force of the personality and her creative vision."

BE THERE

Ballet Folklorico de Mexico at the Universal Amphitheatre at 11 a.m. and 8:15 p.m. today, at 8:15 p.m. Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $23-$58. (818) 622-4440.

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