For the first time, Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad Veracruzana will be performing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Edinburg and Brownsville campuses in December.

The world-renowned ballet folklórico has performed in more than 30 countries, some within Europe, Asia and America.

With the recent opening of the Center for Latin American Arts at UTRGV this August, the university has invited one of the oldest dance companies in Mexico, the folklórico, to host several ballet clinics for students as well as perform for Valley residents. The proceeds from these performances will help fund future events for the CLAA as well as enlist more faculty.

The CLAA is a gathering place for students, performers and staff to exchange ideas, collaborate or promote Latin American arts through teachings, performances and creative works. Part of the center’s core values is to help engage the community with Latin heritage, support regional and cultural traditions, create a strong sense of pride and provide students with unique learning experiences on and off campus.

The Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad Veracruzana will be performing “Raices de mi Pueblo” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Edinburg campus’ Performing Arts Complex, and at 7 p.m. Sunday at the TSC Performing Arts Complex in Brownsville.

Audience members can expect a variety of dances from traditional Mexican folklórico to post colonial and indigenous dances from Veracruz.

Along with the performances at both UTRGV campuses, the Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad Veracruzana will be hosting several clinics at multiple high schools simultaneously throughout the Valley.

These classes will be exclusive clinics for high school students enrolled in ballet folklórico. This presents a special opportunity for the students to learn from some of the best folklórico dancers in Mexico.

Miguel Peña, director of UTRGV’s ballet folklórico, said the clinics are especially important to students who seek to dance professionally in the future.

“(It’s important) to engage students to continue a career in (dance) because having these professional performers from Mexico coming and teach dance, and that students see that there’s a life as a dancer or as a teacher in dance after they finish high school,” Peña said. “I think it will help UTRGV and the dance program to encourage students from those schools to pursue a career in dance. That is what we’re hoping for.”

It’s not a coincidence that the Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad Veracruzana will be performing at UTRGV this December. Peña, who was a professional dancer with a group named Espectáculo Jarocho in the capital city of Veracruz, Xalapa, knows the Veracruzana ballet folklórico’s director, Julio Flores, personally.

Flores was the person who recruited him into the Espectáculo Jarocho dance group.

Flores also has a history with UTRGV when it was the University of Texas-Pan American. He has helped choreograph folklórico performances as a guest artist before and is now returning for this special event.

This international collaboration between both universities is an occasion of many firsts. This is the first time UTRGV’s ballet folklórico will be performing with the famous dance group from Mexico. Also, for the first time in UTRGV history, the university will be associating with a Mexican university to further educate students from both sides of the border.

“We have never had any ties before with (Universidad Veracruzana),” Peña said. “This is the first attempt we do with a university from Mexico, so we’re hoping that this is going to be very successful. … After that we’re hoping we can interchange dancers, going over there to study with them, maybe bring some teachers back here in the near future.”

The Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad Veracruzana is celebrating its 55th anniversary with these performances. The group was founded in 1964. Attendees can expect to see about 42 artists out of the 70 performers that consist of the dance group.