Group performs Mexican dance

Kathleen Cunningham

El Grupo Folklorico Atotonilco, a Mexican folk dance company, founded in Kansas City in 1979 will be performing at Missouri Southern at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The dance company has established a reputation as one of the best Mexican folk dance companies in the United States. It was founded by their director, Maria Chaurand.

It has 85 members ranging in age from five to 40.

“Well, cultural events are among the most enjoyable and well attended events of our theme semesters,” said Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute of International Studies. “Some people anticipate those cultural performances with great expectations, and since this group is in the area Kansas City, and they have such an excellent reputation, we decided to invite them and share their dancing and music with our community.”

Stebbins said he hopes the students can make use of the event and the Mexico Semester theme.

“We hope students receive a taste of Mexican culture and awareness that this culture is still very prevalent in society today, and we hope that everyone just gets personal enjoyment out of it and chance to sit back relax and enjoy an exciting performance,” he said.

The group changes dancing techniques for every place it performs.

“We perform Mexican folklore,” said Maria Chaurand, director of El Grupo. “There are 32 states, and every state has its own style of dancing. [We have an] awareness of our country and diversity of dances. All art forms are very diverse.”

Chaurand said she is happy to come to Southern.

“I don’t know why we were chosen, but am honored that we were chosen,” she said.

Chaurand said she has her own hopes for the audience.

“We want them to take home an appreciation for art and dance and take home information of all the different dances and enjoyment and wanting more,” she said.

The group emphasizes preparation for their performances.

“There will be 22 performers dancing in the performance at Southern.” Chaurand said. “We take our classes very seriously, very serious about the folklore, we practice five days a week, three hours a day.”

Chaurand’s son, Juan Carlos Chaurand, has been performing in the dance company since he was a small boy.

He said he enjoys sharing his culture.

“It all comes from Mexico, all traditional Mexican folklore music,” he said. “We have to have it to dance. I just want them (the audience members) to learn traditions of Mexico as a culture and to embrace the music.”

El Grupo Folklorico Atotonilco has performed on many college campuses.

“We go depending once every two months, whenever they call us,” Juan said.

The dance company had the honor of representing the U.S. at the 1992 World’s Fair in Seville, Spain as well as in Mexico.