Campus News - June 18, 2001


Dream come true
Caro's heart in performance, teaching

By Carolyn Gonzales

Miguel Caro’s dance studio stands empty on a lazy summer day. The only sound is the swamp cooler, creating an oasis on a hot Albuquerque afternoon. Outside the window, the cars and buses pass by noiselessly on Central Avenue, Route 66, near Old Town.

No music is playing as Caro enters the room, nor is he dressed in performance finery, but still, his eyes dance and when he speaks, it’s like hearing a familiar song. The room itself responds to his presence. The sun gleams off the mirrored wall, posters and pictures of colorful dancers brighten.

“I am the dancer. I feel the dance in my heart as I perform, but to teach is also in my dream,” Caro says. “Some students take longer to learn. I work with the class to adjust because everyone is important to me. This way, they gain respect for me as a teacher and I develop friendships with them.”

Born in Ameca in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Caro grew up in Mexico City, where he dreamt of becoming a famous bailador and visiting the United States. Caro’s first dance opportunity came when he was chosen to travel with “Danzas Autótomas de Mexico.” He was one of the lucky few chosen to travel with the company. Later he would be selected from among 200 applicants to dance with the Naciónal Ballet Folklórico.

He’s danced the world over, touring in Europe and the United States. In New Mexico, he noticed that while many people were of Mexican descent, local dance groups mixed Mexican dances and costumes outside the context of Mexican folklore. He decided he could be the one to bring authenticity to folkloric dance in the Land of Enchantment. He returned to Mexico, but felt a strong urge to come back to New Mexico to share the knowledge and appreciation of Mexican dance in its historical context.

He persists in his goal to teach Mexican folk dance at its authentic best. He runs his own studio where he teaches children as young as five as well as adults. He teaches at UNM and at several area public schools. He’s also taught senior citizens and inter-generational groups at the South Broadway Cultural Center.

Because he wants his art to be true to its origin, he attends to every detail. “I design and make the costumes for the dancers,” he says, showing calloused fingers from the meticulous needlework.

“I send my sister Beatriz in Mexico City the design and tell her the colors and materials. She’s been sewing costumes for 35 years,” he says. Caro’s own tough-skinned thumb and forefinger come from attention to detailed decoration on each costume.
Costumes aren’t all it takes to achieve the authentic look. Hair and make up are part of the package and Caro’s eye for detail and perfection led him to earn a cosmetology license.

“The hair and make up must be the same from one dancer to the next. I teach them how to put their hair up, and how make up is applied depending on whether or not they’re performing at daytime or nighttime, indoors or outdoors,” he says.

His efforts are paying off. Most recently, he caught the attention of the David Letterman Show because of a special dance he performs. Dressed in a traditional white suit, he places a tray on his head upon which sits ten glasses filled with water. He went to New York City to tape the dance, which he says he often performs at weddings with the addition of a bottle of champagne on the tray that he serves to the lucky couple with his special toast, “I wish happiness for you.”

The taping involved rigorous rehearsals and, yes; there was some spilled water. He expects the show to air the segment in about three months. Enhancing his David Letterman experience was a chance meeting. “I met Jennifer Lopez,” he says with a gleam in his eye.

Caro has spent more than three decades collecting music from the many regions of Mexico and learning the intricacies of some 2,000 dances. He dreams of one day having a place where he can have both his studio and his home, but in the meantime, he’s following his heart.

“I want to continue to dance to the last second of my life.”

The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico USA
Copyright ©1998 The University of New Mexico.
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