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Country Dancers Bailan in Mexico and on the Web

This summer, fourteen members of Berea's Country Dancers began their trip across the Mexican border. They brought back gifts for friends and family, and stories that are being told through new Internet media.

The Country Dancers toured across Mexico this past summer.

The dancers performed in Morelia, Patzcuaro, Senguio, Tlalpujahua and Mexico City. Their dances included the "English Quadrille," "Nonesuch," "Runcorn," "May-apple," "Lollipop Man," "Jenny Pluck Pears," "Two Men Shy," "The Appalachian Circle" or "Balance the Star" and their signature ending dance, "Big Set."

While in Mexico, the dancers stayed with various host families. Some of these families knew little to no English, and many of the dancers knew little or only basic Spanish, which caused a bit of confusion. Eventually, some of the dancers were able to overcome language barriers and learn about their host families and the Mexican culture.

Though dancing on a rigorous schedule, students still found time to take in the beauty of the surrounding environment. They visited the famous pyramids of Teotihuacan, where they also gave a performance. They also visited the national palace and national cathedral, the Basilica de Guadalupe, a salsa club and many nice restaurants. They were also afforded the opportunity to tour many villages such as Sta. Clara del Cobre, which is a village that specializes in making copper products.

Even with all of the fun and amazing sights and food, there were still a few problems that arose. Though they'd been told to prepare for the difference in altitude, they still, at times, felt ill and found it hard to drum up the energy to perform. They were often without air conditioning, which made it difficult to deal with the summer heat.

Townspeople attending performances were very interested in the Country Dancers. Several children would even follow them back to the bus for autographs. William Haizelett, a sophomore who plays bass and mandolin for the Country Dancers' band, reminisced about a pleasant surprise that occurred after a particular performance at a performing arts school. "After the show we had an impromptu jam session in the hallway," he said. "I played them 'Leather Britches' on their funny-looking mandolin and then a group of the kids played me a beautiful old Mexican folk song."

One lucky country dancer, Rachel Yates, received a gift from a member of the Ballet Folklorico, a traditional Mexican ballet company that the dancers saw perform and also did workshops with. The member of the Ballet Folklorico gave her a hat with heartwarming messages written inside.

Many of the dancers brought back exciting, colorful memories with them. "My favorite memory of Mexico was performing in a small town called Patzcuaro," said Haizelett. "There were three different posters that the people had made for us and they were hanging all over the town. The theater was packed that night and the crowd was really into the performance."

"We had some interesting taxi rides," Priya Thoresen recounted. "Jessica [Harman], Amanda [Hess] and I were in a taxi on our way back to our host motherís home, and our taxi driver, who was a fairly young guy, didn't speak much English, but he kept talking about a club up on the hill, and was playing this fuzzy old disco cassette tape music."

Rose Goble, a junior country dancer, also has many exciting memories. "In Morelia, we went to see the cathedral illumination one evening, a big spectacle complete with music and colorful lights." Rose also comments, "Thereís so many favorite memories, itís hard to pick one. There were so many powerful emotional moments for me, such as seeing the awe-inspiring cathedrals and the pyramids."

In an effort to preserve these memories as well as new ones, Goble has created both a and account. Because Goble is participating in the Country Dancers program for class credit, she is fulfilling her class project requirement by spreading the country dancing art form over the Internet, making it more accessible for Berea students, alumni and past dancers.

"The idea came out of Susan Spalding's suggestion that I complete a photo essay about our trip to Mexico as my semester project," states Goble. "After trying to get it published and formatted, I decided that it would be nice if we had a site that we could publish pictures and videos from everything, not just the Mexico trip, and also keep the community and the school updated on what we are doing." And that's exactly what Goble took the initiative to create.

The profile page features not only pictures, but also slide shows, a few videos and current schedules and updates for the Country Dancers. The Web page is geared towards members of the general public who are looking for more information as well as performance dates. Cashing in on the popularity of the website, Goble has also uploaded videos taken at performances--most recently a weekend performance at Levi Jackson State Park.

Though the sites have not been widely promoted, Goble has high hopes for her creations. "I hope to share our art and the hard work we put into the group," she said. "We dance many types of different dances, and, although we can only perform in person at so many venues a year, we can share our dancing through the web with people who otherwise might not have ever seen anything like us." The sites have also been a good way of staying contact with current and graduated dancers. "And of course," she laughs, "it is a good portal for current dancers to share pictures and stay updated on the performance schedule."

For more information on the Country Dancers and their performances, please visit the links found below.

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