EDINBURG — The dancers of folklorico group Conceptos took the stage for the first time since March at the Edinburg Auditorium on Friday, live performers in a virtual event put on by the city to showcase Latino culture for National Hispanic Heritage Month.
The dancers moved across the stage in a flurry of swirling skirts and shuffling boots, stomping and shouting and, probably, smiling.
You couldn’t tell for sure under those blue surgical face masks.
The most striking thing about the performance, aside from those face masks, was the dead silence after the blaring music and calls of the dancers ended.
There were no cheers and no applause — nothing save for a few of the group’s support staff watching quietly from the stands and a video camera in the middle of the room broadcasting the performance out to hundreds via Facebook Live.
Still, the group’s logistics coordinator Cati Gomez says it was good to be back in action.
“It’s a beautiful feeling. It’s always a beautiful feeling to watch them, because once they’re onstage they’re on their own and it’s all theirs,” she said.
Conceptos’ performance Friday was blended with other recorded segments, some with experts sharing stories about traditional Hispanic cuisine and culture and others with mariachis playing socially distanced pieces throughout.
The program, put on by the city of Edinburg’s Library & Cultural Arts Department, will highlight Hispanic heritage every Friday through Oct. 16.
Gomez says for many of Conceptos’ performers, dance is their heritage and their connection to their culture.
Many of the performers are from Mexico, she said, and some still have parents or close family living on the other side of the border.
“Some of them have been here from many, many, many years,” she said. “They’ve come from Mexico and they’re proud, they’re very proud to perform the Mexican folkloric dance. It reminds them of their heritage and their family, and this keeps it alive.”
Keeping that heritage alive has been difficult during the pandemic.
Gomez says it was impossible to perform or practice at the outbreak’s apex, but as the pandemic has abated folklorico has become more feasible again.
“At this point they were just happy to do it,” Gomez said.
Returning to the stage hasn’t been easy. Dancers are distanced between performances and practice areas have to be cleaned and sanitized. Those surgical masks tend to slip during lively folklorico numbers, and the performers miss having an audience in front of them.
Still, Gomez said, Conceptos’ performers got to do the thing they wanted to do most Fridays: dance.
“It was nice to watch them,” she said. “They were happy, they were just full of joy. I think they forgot about everything around them, everything that’s going on, and just went out there and gave it their all.”
The next performance in the series will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and can be watched on the Edinburg Cultural Arts Facebook page.