Ballet Folklorico Eck helping Ogden kids connect with their Latino roots
OGDEN — David Silos is on a mission — to make sure Latino culture isn’t pushed away among younger generations as they grow up.
“If we don’t teach the youth, who’s going to teach them when we’re gone?” he said.
That’s what led the Mexico native, now living in Sunset, to create Ballet Folklorico Eck in Salt Lake City in 2018 and to expand the youth group focused on the traditional dancing of Mexico and the rest of Latin America to Ogden last May. He’s trying to impart a piece of Mexican and Latino culture to kids — Latino and otherwise — so they know more about the region.
Brought to the United States as a child in 1993 from Torreón, in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, Silos found that he had lost sight of his roots. He grew up with the rest of his family in Logan.
Then one day, his U.S.-born daughter Mili saw a group of traditional Mexican dancers with their long, flowing skirts and it piqued her curiosity. “I called my dad and I was like, ‘What is that?'” she said during a break in practice earlier this week at the Ogden offices of Youth Impact, the nonprofit group partnering with Silos on the initiative in Ogden.
Mili, who is 12, started dancing with an established ballet folklorico group. Silos then decided to launch his own organization, tapping the dance training he had received as a child in Mexico. “It grew out from her wanting to learn,” Silos said.
As with his daughter, he hopes other Hispanic youth embrace their culture. “Some of the kids are proud, but they still hide a little bit,” he said.
More broadly, he wants to keep the kids from the margins, wants them to realize their potential, to know that they can aspire to be anything they imagine.
Ballet Folklorico Eck is open to any of the kids participating in after-school programs at Youth Impact, though Silos eventually hopes to invite participation from the rest of the community. Right now, he said, around a dozen or so students typically take part. The local group performed with the Salt Lake City dancers earlier this month and additional performances are scheduled next month in Ogden.
For Youth Impact reps, the partnership with Ballet Folklorico Eck is a natural, in part given the Latino roots of many of the kids who take part in its programs. Hispanics account for around a third of Ogden’s population.
“It helps them learn the Latino culture. Folk dancing is in many Latino cultures from Spain to Mexico,” said Victoria Monagas, a Youth Impact mentor who was taking part in the dance practice earlier this week.
For some, Monagas said, the dance classes are the kids’ first formal introduction to the culture of Mexico and Latin America. For now, the dances Silos teaches are from Mexico but he hopes to expand that to the traditional dances of other Latin American countries as well.
Mili said she’s hoping to show off her skills to her family south of the border. “I’ll do it for my family in Mexico,” she said.
Olivia Mendez, 11, got involved in the group because it sounded fun. The music and long skirts are her favorite parts of the dance troupe. But her family, with roots in Mexico, is also enthralled.
“They were, like, excited,” she said.