ANTONITO — Dan and Joyce Lopez are the founding members of Los Vecinos Baliadores, a dance group that performs and teaches traditional Spanish waltzes.
It all started with Joyce's brother, Chuck. He was in a mariachi group at Adams State University. One of the members was the director of a traditional dance class in Taos, N.M. Chuck took the class, really liked it, and told his sister Joyce about it.
Dan and Joyce took the 20-week course and enjoyed it so much they decided to bring traditional dance to the San Luis Valley. The class in Taos was funded by a Healy STM Foundation grant with the original intent of getting children interested in traditional dances. The class was also offered to adults and was more popular with them.
Los Vecinos Baliadores started about five years ago. "Vecinos" translates to neighbors. People come from all over to be part of the group, from Antonito where Dan and Joyce live, to Conejos, San Antonio, and Taos to learn " the dances of the past."
Dan explains the group “focuses on the slow Spanish waltzes that originated in Spain and was passed down from the Spanish people who settled in New Mexico. The waltzes were played at social gatherings like weddings or just a way to relax after a hard work week." Local musicians brought their violins and guitars.
Joyce said, “We want to keep the tradition alive." Through the years, neighbors and friends have become like family.
Los Vecinos Baliadores teaches traditional dance for free Monday nights from 6 to 7 p.m. in Antonito. The Dutch Mill Cafe and Bar on Main Street graciously donates space. Everyone is welcome.
As well as preserving traditional dance and music, Los Vecinos Baliadores feels it is important to wear traditional clothing.
Men wear black pants and vest. The ladies wear long skirts displaying their beautiful turquoise jewelry.
During World WarII, there were few men, and women danced together. Now, everyone dances with whomever they like.
A seventh-grader dances with his grandma. Friends dance together. From high schoolers to seniors, everyone can enjoy the benefits of dancing. It is a fun activity and a great way to make new friends and keep tradition alive, the Lopezes said.
Los Vecinos Baliadores is keeping busy. They will make an appearance at the RUNTOWN USA event Sept. 3, in Antonito.
The group will perform Oct. 1 at the Armory in Alamosa for the dedication of a statue commemorating civil rights.
Look for Los Vecinos Baliadores on YouTube. You can find Los Vecinos Baliadores on Facebook.