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Ballet Fiesta, folk dance group, to perform in Hillsboro, Cornelius, Tigard this spring.

COURTESY PHOTO: BALLET FIESTA - Ballet Fiesta offers classes in Mexican baile folklórico and Spanish dance taught by Portland resident Maria Moreno. After a major surgery, Portland resident Maria Moreno founded Ballet Fiesta, a nonprofit dance company in Hillsboro.

Moreno had an aortic aneurysm, causing a bubble in a blood vessel near her heart. The experience became a game changer in how she wanted to spend her life moving forward.

"I retired, and I said, 'I don't like sitting around,'" Moreno said. "I had the expertise in ballet, and I had worked in Mexico and Spain, so I decided to create a studio that does everything."

While originally beginning with ballet 10 years ago under the name Northwest Conservatory of Dance, Moreno broke off the group to form Ballet Fiesta as a second entity.

Ballet Fiesta focuses on instructing students about baile folklórico, traditional folk dance from different Mexican states, as well as flamenco, and Spanish regional dances. 

COURTESY PHOTO: BALLET FIESTA - Ballet Fiesta, based in Hillsboro, performs traditional Mexican and Spanish dances in addition to more contemporary Hispanic dances.To share this style of dance speaks to Moreno's experience. She professionally danced in Mexico City, and later went on to dance in Spain before moving back to the United States to teach.

"I had to start from nothing. I didn't have one dancer that could dance from anything in Mexico and Spain, and it took years. Now we've had several grants, because the costumes involve a lot of fabric," Moreno said.

Ballet Fiesta took up residence in Hillsboro because Moreno wanted a presence in the Latino community, and to encourage dance culture, she said.

The organization gained nonprofit status last year. It's currently prepping for a whole lineup of performances in April and May.

Earlier this year, the Cultural Coalition of Washington County presented Ballet Fiesta with a grant for $1,900.

Three classes are offered through the studio, located at ?1055 N.E. 25th Ave., Suite F, in Hillsboro, from beginners to advanced, with students from ages 6 and up enrolled.

The various styles of folk dance emphasize heel work and the movement of skirts, Moreno said.

The outfits worn in the dance involve circle skirts in bright colors, and take layers to create, she said. Each one can cost up to $200 each, and the group covers the costs for the dancers. Moreno orders many of the outfits from companies in California and Texas, but custom makes many of them herself.

"I like to show the audience different styles, of costume and music, because every state (in Mexico) has different ones," Moreno said. "It is more interesting for the public to show variety."

Ballet Fiesta currently has 20 dancers that perform, while others are beginning out to learn the basic steps.

"It is nice to see the kids progress. When I was young, I just wanted to move," Moreno said. "I think most children like movement and color."

Moreno hopes to see her students be so prepared that they are able to enroll in dance programs around the country to become professionals like she was, she said.

"I want the people who dance with me to go anywhere," Moreno said. "Any studio or be able to teach classes or go to dance programs and fit in. Los Angeles has many — if they move there, they could fit right in."

COURTESY PHOTO: BALLET FIESTA - Classes at Ballet Fiesta are for ages 6 and up, and performers dance in front of audiences all around Washington County. Many students have danced with Moreno since the beginnings of Ballet Fiesta. Some stay in touch with her even after they have finished the program, she said.

Some art lovers may remember seeing Ballet Fiesta perform at ArtFest on the Plaza in Hillsboro last year.

Upcoming performances for Ballet Fiesta:

n The Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center at 527 E. Main St., Hillsboro, for a $5 performance at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27.

n Centro Cultural de Washington County at 1110 N. Adair St., Cornelius, for its Dia del Niño celebration, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 28.

n Choza Restaurant at 7455 S.W. Bridgeport Road, Tigard, entertaining lunch patrons at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4.

To learn more about classes, visit balletfiesta.com.



By Janae Easlon
Features Editor
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
971-762-1166
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