* * Consuelo Zermeņo * *


Ballet Folklórico de Amalia Hernádez


Dancing with the Gods
A young Hayward girl's dream comes true: that of dancing with the best: "The
Ballet Folklórico de Mexico"

By Batia Rabec, editor of Nuevo Mundo
Translated by Julio Bustos

With bare feet and wearing a fluorescent blue and red skirt, that reveal long
and tenuous legs, Consuelo Zermeño stomps on stage the dance of "Los
Concheros".
She claims to have ugly feet and that they are hurt from dancing so much. " I
have three blisters right now", she says timidly, not daring to show them.
Alth ough, she wouldn't show us her blisters, she has shown that she was
capable of accomplishing the impossible dream of so many dancers: to be part
of "Ballet Folklórico de Amalia Hernández". It's been two months since
Consuelo left her native Hayward and moved to Mexico City. Since she has
become an official dancer of Ballet Folklórico de Mexico and she now travels
throughout the world to carry, through dance, the oldest traditions of the
Mexican culture.

Last week she was performing at the Berkeley Community Theater and at the San
Jose Center for the Performing Arts, taking part in the tour that commemorates
the 45th anniversary of "Ballet Folklórico", and that it will include 12 other
American cities.

Between shows, she took the time to briefly visit Äher parents in the Bay
Area, "to soak my feet in hot water". While she was dancing "Los Concheros", a
dance indigenous to the State of Mexico, Consuelo had her ankles wrapped with
bells constructed with sea shells. Even though the gods heard her prayers and
granted her wish, she was still following, with her feet, the rhythm of the
precolumbian dance. Perhaps to implore to the divine beings that they never
abandon her.

A little girl like all the others
Consuelo was a girl like all the others. When she was seven, her father, a
native of the state of Jalisco, Don Francisco Zermeño, took her to see Ballet
Folklórico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno in Oakland. That is when she discovered
her calling in life. "When I saw the dancing children in that ballet, I
immediately wanted to become one of them", states Consuelo, today at the age
of 18, while caressing her shoulder-length reddish brown hair. Consuelo
attended devotedly Carlos Moreno's academy of dance in Oakland , twice a week,
never dreaming that she would one day pass the toughest test of all and she
would become one of the few selected to be a member in the Ballet Folklórico
de Mexico's first company. She just wanted to dance."When I met her, she
lacked self-steem and she would constantly look timidly to the ground. She was
an average little girl, and she danced like all the rest", says Carlos Moreno
Jr., Consuelo's teacher with the Ballet Mexicano Mexicano in Oakland. She came
out of her shell and she became the leader in the group " because she was
good, very good. She worked hard to improve herself", affirms her former
teacher. Moreno had danced for Amalia Hernández a few years ago. When it was
time to write her a letter of recomendation, Moreno spoke personally with
Amalia Hernández ballet and he was able to get his disciple an audition. His
student is the only American of Latino blood in the group.

Friendship first.
After dancing "Los Concheros", Consuelo took a vow and saluted the audience.
The audience clapped and showed their approval, just like the gods. Backstage
her friends from Ballet Mexicano were waiting for her. When her best friend,
Vanessa Konessklatt, saw her come out they hugged. Vanessa was crying from the
excitemtent. " I also dream of joining Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, but I know
that it's an impossible dream", says 16 year old Vanessa, and one of the best
dancers in Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno. Vanessa knows that it
is extremely difficult to join Amalia Hernandez's troupe. Nevertheless, her
love and devotion for Consuelo, make it so that her friend's happiness, is
also her happiness "because she deserves it, she worked hard to get there".
Vanessa and Consuelo took their first steps in the dance world together. And
they will continue to Ûfeel affinity for each other, no matter where life
might take them, because to them, friendship is first.

A long and harsh road
When she's alone in her Tlalpán home in Mexico City, Consuelo misses all that
she left behind: her family, her friends, her country. Adaptation to this huge
city has not been easy for this young latina, that has spent all her life in
an American suburb, surrounded by comfort and space. As soon as she took the
subway in Mexico City, they stole her wallet. "I noticed that I didn't have it
when I tried to pay for the fare in the next bus I tried to take. I learned to
be more careful among the huge crowds that fill the streets", she says. Just
like the Aztecs were persistent in their acceptance in the Valley of Mexico,
Consuelo is determined in conquering the city." I'm not sure if I will do it
one day. I'm used to the suburbs; I grew up here" she states referring to
Hayward. Nonetheless , she quickly got used to the daily, six hour non-stop
rehearsals supervised by Amalia Hernández, founder and choreographer of
the ballet. "She's very strict and demanding", Consuelo tells us, whom Amalia
already knows on a first name basis. Consuelo also has gotten used to the
measly salary that the artists get paid and assures us that " I barely earn
enough for beans and tortillas, let alone to be going to restaurants". That's
why now that she's visiting with her parents, she eats everything her mother
offers her: an apple, a pastry, a quesadilla, and coffee with four teaspoons
of sugar. " I don't Ô diet; I burn all the extra calories when I dance", she
states looking slim at 54 kilos and 1.70 meters in height.

Consuelo's mother, Elizabeth, is a French national, but speaks Spanish like a
true Mexican. She not only wants to nourish her daughter's body, but her
spirit as well.
"When she left for Mexico, I felt like most mothers would: 'my daughter is
leaving!'. And I remembered my own mother in Paris, when I left, to go study
Spanish in Mexico. She was 10,000 kilometers away", says Mrs. Zermeño.

The teacher, Carlos Moreno Jr., has not gotten used to Consuelo's absence. He
would like her to come back to Oakland when she is through with her dance
career, to teach whatever she learns during her tenure with Ballet Folklórico
de Mexico.

Most likely, Consuelo will come back, and she will tell the little children,
that even though she was selected, and had danced endlessly to beg for the
clemency of the gods, she still had to soak her feet in hot water because they
were full of blisters.

 

 

 Ballet folkórico de México de Amalia Hernández