When Homewise reopened the iconic B Ruppe Drugstore in Barelas for community use in October, we didn’t know what to expect. I am happy to say that the response has been overwhelming! Over the past 4 months, the Ruppe has been the site of several community events, art events, group meetings, and classes. One unique group that utilizes the space on a weekly basis is a Ballet Folklorico group called Ballet Xallitic, led by Barelas resident, Cesar Velazquez Martinez. Ballet Folklorico, or “folkloric dance” is a collective term for traditional Mexican dances that emphasize local folk culture with ballet characteristics. Ballet Xallitic stands out because Cesar teaches the class free to anyone interested and donates his free time, 3 evenings a week to teach Ballet Folklorico. I met up with Cesar at the Ruppe before his class to talk about the origins of Ballet Xallitic.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? How long have you been in New Mexico? How long have you been a resident of Barelas?
I am from Xalapa, Veracruz Mexico. I have been living in the States for 15 years and all my 15 years living here, I’ve been living in Barelas. When I married my wife 11 years ago, we bought a house down the street from the Ruppe.
What is your background in Ballet Folklorico?
I started dancing when I was 14 years old. I went to a dance school that had a 2-year program to become a teacher. As part of the program, I went to different states [in Mexico] to learn the dances from each state. I was part of a group for 4-5 years and from there I moved up to a professional dance group called Ballet Quetzalli, led by Hugo Betancourt. I danced with them for almost 6 years. During that time, I took some classes in different [Mexican] states; I took some classes here in the United States, and taught classes here too. Then my brother, Victor started a group here in New Mexico called Semblanzas. He led that group for 8 years and then decided to go back to Mexico. At that time, I was going back and forth dancing with Quetzalli in Mexico and dancing with Semblanzas here in the United States. When my brother decided to leave, was when I decided to start my own dance group. I moved to the U.S. and I started my own group, which is Xallitic. The dancers in Xallitic are all ages and different levels and I teach them dances from all the states of Mexico.
What are your favorite memories of dancing Ballet Folklorico?
When I started, I was 14 and I didn’t want to dance in the beginning. The only reason I did was because my brother made me. My first performance was at an elementary school in Mexico. After we were done dancing and everyone started clapping, was one of my favorite memories, because that was when I fell in love with Folkloric dance. The other favorite memory was when I danced at El Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. That’s a big deal. I had the opportunity to perform there twice. Also, dancing gave me the opportunity to travel! When I was part of Quetzalli, I traveled all over the U.S. and different countries. It’s great to get to know other cultures and places, and not just stay in a small town in Mexico. I love being able to teach people to dance Ballet Folklorico. I do it to maintain the tradition and the culture. I never turned it into a business or anything like that. I just wanted to teach and I’ve never charged anyone to dance.
Tell me about Ballet Xallitic?
I started Ballet Xallitic 9 years ago. The main reason was because some of the members from Semblanzas wanted to keep dancing and I didn’t want to use my brother’s name, so I started my own group. There was a Ballet Folklorico competition in Corpus Christi, TX and Xallitic formed so we could compete. We ended up getting third place in the competition and we were the only group from New Mexico! From there we started dancing at the Barelas Community Center and we practiced there for many years. We used to practice at Casa Barelas too. I had to stop dancing for 2 years because I got into a car accident and was told I wouldn’t be able to dance anymore. I took 2 years off, went to therapy, and we returned last year. When I heard they were going to turn the B Ruppe into a community center I wanted to be a part of it, and be part of the community that I have lived in for so long. I was grateful to be given an opportunity to use the space.
Ballet Xallitic practices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6-8 pm at the B Ruppe. There is no charge for the classes, however he does take donations to help pay for the group’s costumes if you are so inclined. Classes are open for anyone 16 years and up and all levels are welcome! If you are interested in learning more about upcoming events at the B Ruppe or if you’re looking for a space to host your next community event, check out the website: www.theruppe.org, Instagram: @thebruppedrugstore or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheRuppe.