Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

Duncan Tonatiuh
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017   ISBN: 978-1419725326

Amalia Hernandez was born in Mexico in 1917, and after seeing local traditional dancers performing in a town square young Amalia decided that wanted to become a dancer. At first Amalia’s father was opposed to his daughter learning how to dance, but eventually he gave in and he arranged for Amalia to have ballet lessons. Amalia worked hard and became “an accomplished ballerina.”

When two modern dancers came to Mexico City in 1939 Amalia saw them perform and was interested in this new dance form that was so different from traditional ballet. Amalia began to study with a modern dance teacher as well as progressing in her ballet classes.

Eventually Amalia became a dance teacher and a choreographer, and in 1952 Amalia and some other dancers gave a performance. One of the dances, which was inspired by the local danza that she saw in that town square all those years ago, was particularly popular with the audience.

Amalia decided that she would create ballets based on the “folkloric danzas from the different regions of Mexico” and she formed her own ballet company to do this. Wanting to learn as much as she could about the danzas, Amalia travelled around Mexico learning about the history of the danzas as well as the steps, the music, and the costumes that the dancers used. She was determined that the dances she created would celebrate the history, culture, and creative energy of her country in a new and exciting way.

In this excellent book the author offers his readers an homage to a dancer who is a national hero in her native Mexico. The interesting thing is that Amalia’s contribution to the world of dance spread beyond the borders of her country. She showed the world how dance forms could be blended to give people all around the world a new dance experience.