Published May 2023
By Carol Mowdy Bond | 6 min read
As two-year-old Deyanira Fuentes watched her parents dance along with the rest of Grupo de Danza Folklórico Mexicano Norahua, she wanted to join the fiesta. To keep her happy until she was old enough, her dad made sure Deyanira had her own pint-size authentic dance costumes to wear. That’s until she turned four, and then Deyanira jumped into Mexican dance.
Deyanira’s father, Jaime Fuentes, is the founder, owner, and director of the group simply known among its members as Norahua (pronounced NOH-RAH-wah), which he established in 1994. But Jaime learned to dance when most kids his age were just learning the alphabet.
Norahua dancers electrified the stage during Rhythm of the World: Dance & Music from Around the World in Moore on March 4, 2023. Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander
A native of Chihuahua, Jaime began dancing at age six. After high school, he attended Escuela Superior de Danza Folklórica de Chihuahua, where he studied dance and became a certified dance professor. Though he came to the United States at twenty-three to start a welding career, he created a side business teaching dance anyplace he could. Nearly three decades ago, he decided to start his own organization dedicated to the beauty of Mexico’s various dance traditions.
“Norahua, which means friends or friendship, is from an Indigenous language, Tarahumara, from the state of Chihauhua in Mexico,” says Deyanira, who is twenty-four now and assists her father with the dance troupe. “Jaime founded Norahua twenty-nine years ago with nine dancers. Now, he has more than 120 dancers from ages four into their sixties.”
Folklórico means folk telling, and Norahua members perform Old Mexico’s heritage and cultural stories through dance. Their high-energy shows are feasts for the senses, with precise choreography, lively Ranchera and other music, and infectious energy. Women wear colorful skirts that flutter and swirl as they move, and men hoot and holler as they kick up their boots. Everyone also wears a variety of footwear with nails in the heels and toe tips to make sure the audience hears and feels every turn, every step.
Norahua dancers showcase the panoply of Mexican culture by performing regional dances from Mexico’s thirty-one states, each with its own costumes, footwear, and music. Chihuahua alone has many Indigenous dances including a ballroom dance known as Antaño, a revolutionary dance called Revolución, and ancient dances that harken back to the Aztecs.
Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander
Dancers practice at Norahua’s brick-and-mortar space in south Oklahoma City, and they perform in public twice monthly at various cultural events around the city including Cinco de Mayo, Día de los Muertos, El Grito de Dolores (Mexico’s Independence Day), and Hispanic Heritage Month. But they also perform in other states and in competitions. In 2019, a fellow dance instructor invited Norahua to perform at Universal Studios Hollywood in California. In July of this year, they’ll kick up their heels overseas for the first time in Turkey.
Though he still works full-time as a welder, Jaime teaches all the dances himself. Deyanira says those include La Danza de los Machetes de Nayarit for highly disciplined males ages fourteen and older, who dance with machetes and often are blindfolded during presentations. It’s a lot of work, but Jaime is happy to do it.
“He founded Norahua to continue Mexican culture and traditions in the U.S., and especially to get children involved,” Deyanira says. “His goal is to make more dancers so they embrace their culture, and so they don’t forget their roots. He’s had dancers who began with him as little kids, and they return with their little kids. He also has dancers who created their own dance groups.”
Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander
Now a pharmacy technician with a biomedical science degree, Deyanira is studying for a career in cardiovascular sonography. But fourteen years of dance has taught her a great deal she’ll carry for the rest of her life.
“It was fun,” she says. “It taught me about my culture and my parents. Being in dance keeps you out of trouble. You learn a lot of discipline. You learn to network with others, and you have a growing group of friends. It creates family time together, unites the Hispanic community, creates endurance, and is a fun way to exercise. It’s predominantly cardio, so it’s better than a treadmill or going to the gym. I’m hoping in thirty to forty years, these dances will still be going, keeping our roots strong, passing down our culture to all generations.”
Grupo de danza Folklórico Mexicano Norahua
5920 South Agnew Avenue in Oklahoma City