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Cheyenne’s Grupo De Como La Flor helps dancers bloom

(Photo courtesy of Grupo De Como La Flor)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — There’s a new Mexican folk dancing group in town that’s turning ordinary community members into blossoming performers.

Twice a week, 23 dancers ranging from 2 to 35 years old meet at the Cheyenne Eagles Lodge to learn traditional dances inspired by various Mexican states, from the fast-paced and colorful “Jalisco” to the slower and more flowery “Sinaloa” to the western-themed “Baja California.”

They are members of Grupo De Como La Flor, which was launched in August by community member Marissa Medina. An avid lover of Selena Quintanilla, Medina named the group after the artist’s song “Como la flor,” which translates to “like a flower” in English.

“I just think of everyone as being a beautiful flower or a rose,” Medina said. “We’re just all growing in our own ways.”

Grupo De Como La Flor has participated in multiple Cheyenne’s cultural events, including the Nov. 4 Día de los Muertos festivities and September Cheyenne Hispanic Festival. It also hosts monthly fundraisers at the lodge, where community members can purchase food and watch the dancers perform. The money is used to help the group buy hairpieces, performance skirts, dresses and makeup, among other things.

A capital city native, Medina grew up taking traditional Mexican folk dancing classes. She wanted to create a local space where people of all ages could learn how to dance, and sent out a Facebook post in April in search of interested members. Enthusiastic responses quickly poured in from both adults and young kids. Now, Medina and fellow community member Alyssa Martinez teach basic dancing techniques to a roomful of eager students.

Medina wants her weekly classes to be as affordable as possible, and only charges a monthly member fee of $20 for those 15 and younger and $30 a month for those 16 and older.

“I just want everybody to do it, I don’t want people to be discouraged,” Medina said. “[Students] are actually relieved because they can afford it.”

Grupo De Como La Flor organizer Marissa Medina, right, and her 2-year-old daughter Esmeralda Ganzenmuller at the Nov. 4 Día de los Muertos at the Botanical Gardens. (Photo by Stephanie Lam / Cap City News)

One of Medina’s favorite parts of leading the group is getting to watch her 2-year-old daughter, Esmeralda Ganzenmuller — Grupo De Como La Flor’s youngest member — fall in love with dance and embrace their heritage.

“We only practice two times a week, but she constantly tells me all the time, ‘Mommy, practice?’ like she wants to go to practice,” Medina said. “She’ll want to put on her skirt multiple times at home and gets in front of the TV; we put on the music and we’ll dance.”

Like Medina, Cheyenne resident Tavae Hurtado grew up performing Mexican folk dances. She appreciates seeing her 7-year-old daughter Lové dancing in the group and carrying on the tradition.

“Jalisco is the first state that I learned as a little girl, and that’s the first state my daughter is learning,” Tavae said. “It’s cool to see her starting where I did.”

Lové especially loves to be around kids her age that share the same passion, Tavae said.

“My daughter really enjoys dancing and doing an extracurricular activity that’s not soccer or something like that,” she said. “She enjoys dance and the music and performing. It’s really nice to meet new kids who also enjoy doing dance.”

Another of these kids is 8-year-old Ella Moyte, who been with the group since August. Moyte, who is a member of the deaf community, looks forward to seeing her two cousins at practice and befriended an older dancer who is learning sign language.

7-year-old Ella Moyte during Grupo De Como La Flor’s Nov. 4 Día de los Muertos festivities. (Photo courtesy of Yolanda Gonzalez)

“I have friends there,” Moyte said through an interpreter. “I watch them and learn how to dance from them.”

What Moyte treasures most of all is getting to dress up and show off her newfound talents.

“I like the big dress and twirling around and my black shoes,” she said. “I feel so happy and excited. I love to dance.”

The Hurtados and Moyte’s positive reactions mean a lot to Medina.

“I love interacting with the kids and seeing their faces light up when we start a new song,” Medina said. “Everybody gets excited to put on the skirts; a few girls told me how big and beautiful they look. They can’t wait for their hairpieces and to get all dolled up.”