On Saturday, November 29th, The Quad City Ballet Folklorico, the area’s largest traditional Hispanic folk dance group will be celebrating their 30th anniversary.
That is quite a bit longer than founder, Arnulfo Camarillo thought it would last. “It was originally a group for the YWCA that was supposed to last six weeks,” explained Camarillo. “Then they asked me to stay another six weeks and that happened four more times.”
The mission of the QCBF is simple and to the point. Teach the members the rich dance traditions of different states in Mexico while also instilling a strong work ethic in them. After the YWCA decided to stop the group, Camarillo had to make a decision. And with the help of The Quad City Arts, he was able to keep the program going. Thirty years and hundreds of dancers later, that original goal has not changed and with the help of the Bettendorf Children’s Museum, Augustana College, Moline High School and Moline Township, the QCBF is still standing and continues to educate and entertain the community with its rich dance culture and traditions.
Former member and current Director, Ray Terronez reflects back on some memories of when he was just starting out in the group. “I wanted to join when I was just five,” said Terronez. “But Arnulfo said I was too young.” It was with a little trickery from his mother a few years later that got Ray re-interested in dancing and to this day is still one of the most talented dancers to represent the group.
“When I was a little older I thought it was girly,” explained Terronez. “So my Mom would buy me a toy for each practice I went too.”
Terronez danced for the next eleven years and had all the intentions of retiring after high school as most do, but during his junior year in college was asked to come back and be an assistant teacher under Camarillo’s daughter, Karina. After five years, Terronez was asked to be Director.
“Ray always had the most energy of all the dancers,” said Camarillo. “He is a natural teacher.”
When hearing the word Ballet, most instantly think of tutus and twirling. But let me assure you, having been a member of the QCBF, hours upon hours of mastering choreographed dance moves rivals any traditional sport practice I have participated in.
“We not only teach our students the dance moves,” said Terronez. “But to perform in life to the best of their abilities.” Groups like the Quad City Ballet Folklorico do not survive as long as they do if not for the passion and generosity of people like Arnulfo Camarillo. “I’ve asked myself many times, “why am I doing this”,” said Camarillo. “You do it because you love it.”
The last thirty years are in the books. And naturally, as any good teachers do, Camarillo and Terronez are already putting things in place for the next thirty years. “We are looking into teaching some new states of Mexico and maybe even bringing a teacher in from Mexico,” said Terronez. And thirty years later, Camarillo’s goal is the same as it was after his first seven weeks with the group. “We are a family,” said Camarillo. “We just need to keep going.”
Top photos by Phil Cunningham
Bottom photo by Tar Macias