SELMA – Celeste Calderon has been dancing since she was seven years old. It’s 13 years later and now she’s sharing her love of folklorico dancing with Selma residents who decades her senior. Hearing the laughter filling the exercise room at the Nick Medina Senior Center for their first lesson however, the joy of dancing proved to be ageless that June 7 morning.
“It’s my passion. I really thought when I got into college, I was going to quit, but I just couldn’t,” she said.
Calderon is a student at California State University, Fresno. She’s entering her junior year as a biology major and plans to become a dentist.
She’s a Fresno native and grew up taking folklorico dance lessons there. She started when seven years old, continued at Central High School but wasn’t sure how’d she manage to keep up with the demands of college and dancing.
“There were some times when I thought, how am I going to do this? But it’s all about time management,” Calderon said. “I’m a determined person. I set my goals and I make sure I reach them.”
She also credits her instructor Dr. Richard Torres for helping her realize that school is first, but there’s a way to balance all of life’s demands.
Calderon now dances with Los Danzantes de Aztlan at CSUF. She’ll be taking summer classes but also wanted to take advantage of summer vacation to share her love of dancing.
“People tend to neglect the seniors so I really thought volunteering my time here would be great.”
Calderon was at the Senior Center on business matters with her father and brought the idea up with Selma’s Recreation Coordinator Liz Martinez.
Martinez said when she first announced the classes would be offered, some of the seniors seemed a little hesitant.
“They were like, ‘folklorico? What’s that?’ So I explained that it’s Mexican dance and [the instructor] would take it easy on them. But now, with the turnout, I hope we get more people. If we need to make more room, we’ll make more room for them.”
Calderon has helped teach workshops with the CSUF dance troupe and now she’ll teach these classes at least once each week on her own.
It was their first lesson that day and 12 women showed up. They started off by stretching and the Calderon taught them some first steps.
“They actually picked it up real quick. I was really surprised,” she said afterwards. “I was expecting them to go slower, so they did really good and I’m excited to teach them a new song next week. I really want to do this for a longer period of time because, seeing how excited they were, I really liked it.”
Selma’s Rebecca Martinez was one of the dance students that day. Decades ago, she was enrolled in the folklorico dance lessons at Selma High.
“Once you’re in the class, you enjoy it. I like it. It relaxes you and it’s good exercise. It’s a good workout.”
For others who’ve never take dance lessons, Martinez encourages them to give the folklorico class a try since the instructor and other students are supportive.
“Do just what you can do. Don’t worry about anybody else. Everybody here is good support and the instructor is fantastic. She sees that everybody’s going at their own pace.”
Lupe Moreno, another dance student, predicts the folklorico class would have similar benefits as like the other exercise classes offered at the Senior Center.
“I love dancing and exercising. It feels good because I have arthritis from my neck going down. So if I don’t do anything, I can’t even get out of bed. I have to come because then I feel a lot better and the pain goes away.”
Aside from the actual dance steps and health benefits, Calderon said she hopes these women, and hopefully men if they’re brave enough to sign up, realize that it’s never too late to learn something new.
“They can do folklorico just like anyone else. It seems very high and intense and there’s so much movement, but they can still do it as long as they put their mind to it. I’m really here to make sure they have fun and get something out of it. If they don’t get it, that’s ok. As long as they’re doing it, that’s what matters.”
Those interested in attending are encouraged to wear tennis shoes, not sandals that may flip off during the dancing. Also, wear comfortable stretch clothes that breathe.
Since Calderon is also a health coach, she’ll offer participants some dietary and health tips to help them lead as healthy a life as possible.
“They might think there’s no need to do anything, but it’s never too late to start a good, healthy lifestyle. They will feel the difference and want to move more. Folklorico is a good way to do that since you’re working on everything when you’re dancing folklorico.”