Bridgeport girls retain their Dominican heritage through dynamic dance program

A group of Bridgeport girls stay connected to their Dominican heritage through a dynamic dance program.
Residents who stroll down East Main Street in Bridgeport any Saturday of the month may hear the rich Latin rhythms that are the heart and soul of the Ballet Folklorico Dominicana— one of the most dynamic Hispanic dance programs anywhere in the state.
"It's like a ballet dance mixed with a little bit of Dominican dances," says 10-year-old Elainy Castillo. "It makes me happy because everybody's kind to me, they respect me."
Ballet Folklorico Dominicana is a collective term for traditional Dominican dances that emphasize local folk culture that have ballet characteristics and are highly choreographed performances that feature exaggerated movements. The dances are an ideal way for girls 5 to 14 to channel their youthful exuberance into artistic expression.
Director Vanessa de la Cruz tells News 12 Connecticut how the program helps kids, most of whom were born in Bridgeport, maintain cultural traditions that are the bulwark of their heritage.
"Being in this group is just amazing to me," says Dannyerin Hernandez. "And I like dancing because I've been dancing my whole life."
During Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, as much about culture and tradition as it is about fun, the young dancers show how it's done.
"And I really trust this group because they have been there for a very long time," says Diomarys Mejia. "Everywhere we go it's fun because we have tradition and each other as a group."