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Mexican Dance Teacher Dies at 83

November 5, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Amalia Hernandez, the founder of Mexico’s Ballet Folklorico and a pioneer in the revival of traditional Mexican dance styles over the last 50 years, died Saturday at the age of 83, Mexican media reported.

Hernandez died of a respiratory ailment at a Mexico City hospital, her daughter Viviana Basantes told the government news agency Notimex. A memorial ceremony was to be held Sunday at Mexico City’s Fine Arts Palace, where her ballet performed, and she was to be buried after at the Panteon Frances.

Born to a wealthy family in 1917 and trained in classical dance, Hernandez was more drawn to the varied traditional Mexican folk dances and regional dance styles.

In 1952, she founded the Ballet Folklorico, a revue of different styles ranging from the foot-stomping Jarabe Tapatio to the slow, graceful Danzon style of the Gulf coast, and the polka-influenced dances of northern Mexico.

She also incorporated some of the dances performed by Mexico’s 58 indigenous groups into the Ballet Folklorico, which continues to perform at the Fine Arts Palace as well as on tours throughout the world.

Considered a pioneer of folk revival, she broke new ground by combining classical dance technique with traditional and regional choreography, and by bringing those dances _ once confined to local festivities _ to fine arts venues.

Hernandez often recalled that she had to plead with her father to allow her to become a dancer, a profession not particularly well regarded in the 1920s.

The Ballet Folklorico, whose repertory grew to include hundreds of choreographies, also established a school for dancers.

In recent years, Hernandez had traveled with the group, but handed over direction of the troupe to her daughter, Norma Lopez Hernandez. She is also survived by a son, Jose Luis Martinez.

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