NAMPA — What started as a hobby for one Nampa woman has turned into a booming dance studio, training dancers who have performed at community events all over the Treasure Valley and beyond.
Ballet Folklórico Mexico Lindo was founded by Monique Michel-Duarte 15 years ago. The studio teaches the art of Mexican folk dance and culture to a whole new generation, inspiring a love of dance along the way.
"I love my culture, I love the heritage and the stories and the folk arts, and I thought that was important to share that out here," Michel-Duarte said.
Dozens of dancers, some as young as 6 years old, take part in classes throughout the week.
"I teach the dances and I share them with my dancers the way they were taught to me," Michel-Duarte explained. "So it's very much from one person to another, handed down in that traditional way."
Over the last 15 years, she has created her own close knit dance family here in the Treasure Valley, while inspiring the next generation.
"I tell my dancers there is so much to Mexican culture," she said. "Especially in Folklórico which is the art of Mexican Folk Dancing ... It's so rich and it's so vast."
The culture shines through in the choreography, the traditional attire, the music, and the musical instruments used.
"She's really great at teaching us about different cultures," said one student.
And it's not just for girls; male students enjoy it just as much as their female counterparts. They all agree that the challenge of learning the dance moves is worth it.
"It takes hard work," said one boy. "Everyone thinks it's something simple, like 'oh, I could do this easily,' but it's actually hard."
The performances and the beautiful colorful costumes are the reward. Michel-Duarte's students have performed in five states and in front of dignitaries including Idaho's governor and the Mexican Consulate.
"Everybody is welcome in my studio, absolutely everybody," Michel-Duarte said. "It just means a lot to me because it means that they feel good about who they are and what they are doing enough that they want to share it."