As storm clouds gather over Humboldt Park, Carlos Avila and Erika Coria dance and teach a group of youngsters.
Avila and Coria are part of Ballet Folklorico Mexico de los Hermanos Avila, a dance company that teaches and performs traditional forms of Mexican dance. Today, it is traditional Aztec dance.
“I’ve been dancing with them for 7 years,” said Coria. “I’m pretty sure I saw them when I was in first grade and I saw them dance and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I want to do that.’”
Avila’s brother and sister founded the group 42 years ago. “My sister, Carmen, she came up with an idea, she started a group in Madison, Wisconsin, and she called it Ballet Folklorico Mexico de los Hermanos Avila and we started dancing back in 1972,” he said.
“My grandfather was a traditional dancer, my father was a traditional dancer, the very first time when I danced I was about 6, maybe 7, years old and ever since,” said Avila.
Avila grew up in Mexico but, after his father passed away, his mother brought the family to Madison in search of a better life – he was 16. “I missed it so much at the beginning, like you won’t believe,” he said. “It was like all my friends, school, everything was back home and that’s one of the reasons why I think my sister, she missed it so much she wanted to bring Mexico to Wisconsin and that’s the way she did it.”
So, they continue to dance and, as Coria put it, “to spread the culture and the tradition of Mexico and the Aztecs.”
As a new generation learns that tradition, Avila makes sure to impress on his students that it’s not simply about memorizing moves and reciting steps – the dances represent the eternal search for harmony and integration. “The way the dances are done,” he said, “not everybody is doing the same exact steps. In Azteca, the dances do change, people change their attitude while dancing.”
Did you find value in Carlos and Erika’s story? If so, please subscribe to our newsletter; we publish the story of a different Milwaukeean every week.
Milwaukee Stories is a nonprofit organization that works to bring you the real stories of regular people all across our city. This work is solely supported by individual contributions from people like you. Please consider becoming a sustaining member, or make a one-time donation, today.
Patron | $3 monthly (or $50 one-time) donation
Member | $7 monthly (or $100 one-time) donation
Partner | $25 monthly (or $500+ one-time) donation