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caption: A photo collage of Kylie Hooks (left) and Josie Gonzalez walking in the South Park Fiestas Patrias parade in 2019.
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A photo collage of Kylie Hooks (left) and Josie Gonzalez walking in the South Park Fiestas Patrias parade in 2019.
Credit: Courtesy Josie Gonzalez

How my best friend and I stay connected to our culture through dance

Folklorico – dances of the people – is a style of dance from Mexico.

Folklorico helps preserve Mexican traditions of spirituality, storytelling, music and clothing design. And for many Mexican American teens, Folklorico is a way to connect with their culture through stories and music not commonly represented in American media.

Fifteen-year-old Kylie Hooks is a Folklorico performer. Kylie talked with RadioActive's Josie Gonzalez about her relationship with the dance.

[RadioActive Youth Media is KUOW's radio journalism and audio storytelling program for young people. This episode was entirely youth-produced, from the writing to the audio editing.]



"L

as Olas" is a traditional dance song from Jalisco, Mexico, and it's one of the most popular folklorico songs. Kylie Hooks is working on her choreography to the song. She’s a fifteen-year-old dancer, and my best friend.

We met at Joyas Mestizas, a Mexican youth folklorico group. Kylie has been dancing since she was 13 years old, when her mom encouraged her to join the group.

"My mom grew up in Utah, and her Mexican mom made her join a [folklorico] group," Kylie says. "When she moved to Seattle, she met a woman at a party who dances, and she got invited to dance in Bailadores de Bronce where she danced for about 15 years. Then she had me."

When Kylie was born, her mom kept dancing — even with a six-month-old baby on her back. Kylie’s been dancing since before she could walk, and she loves it. She especially loves the big, beautiful dresses lined with ribbons and their matching hairpieces.

But it’s not all flowers and glimmer. Kylie has the blisters and bruises from hours of dance practice to prove that. Dance is Kylie’s culture, she says, “even if it’s hard, and tiring, and there’s other things you’d rather be doing on your Wednesday afternoons.”


“Folklorico is not just about the costumes and the footwork, it’s also about the family that comes with it." KYLIE HOOKS

I’ve been dancing with Joyas Mestizas for ten years, but I know I’ll never be quite as obsessed with folklorico as Kylie is.

Despite multiple late-night practices and performances throughout the years, Kylie never once thought about quitting.

Me, on the other hand? I remember wanting to quit at least once a year.

I asked her why she stuck with it.

“I dance because I love this community," Kylie says. "They watched me grow, and this group will forever be a part of my life.”

When it comes to Kylie’s future in dance, there’s never been any doubt about what will happen next.

“I see myself finishing my career here at Joyas, and moving to dance full time with my mom in the adult group for as long as I can," Kylie says.

When you watch baile folklorico onstage, you see a story told through dance in just two minutes. What you don’t see are the years someone like Kylie has spent perfecting each and every step, while forming life-long relationships too.

“Folklorico is not just about the costumes and the footwork, it’s also about the family that comes with it," Kylie says.

Folklorico is a way for Mexican Americans like me and Kylie to pass down our stories and culture through the generations. No matter what happens in the future, the connection that dance gave us to our culture will stay with us forever.

This story was created in KUOW's RadioActive Online Intro to Radio Journalism Workshop for 15- to 18-year-olds, with production support from Mary Heisey. Prepared for the web by Charlotte Engrav. Edited by Sonya Harris.

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