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University student creates a company to keep dance alive

by Aliza Majid

Most students are thinking about what they are planning to do after graduation and figuring out how they are going to make it to the end of their last year in college by their senior year.

Alyssa Teijeiro-Ficht decided that she would create a Flamenco Dance company during her senior year of college in order to share her passion for dance with the world.

Courtesy of Indie Media Studios

La Fuerza Flamenca Dance Group was founded last summer right before the academic year and is currently the only all-ladies Flamenco Fusion dance group in the area.

“I came to the U of I as a dance major my freshman year and I ended up changing majors sophomore year, I switched to education. I knew that I wanted to keep dancing in some way because I missed being able to do Flamenco since I was in a Flamenco company in Chicago for 12 years and I didn’t want to lose it,” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

She spent the summer planning the company out with her fellow dance colleagues and others to finalize every part to create a project she was proud of. They spent the summer brainstorming what the company name and logo would be as well as what the choreography would look like.

The name of the company itself, La Fuerza Flamenca Dance, holds a sentimental piece of Teijeiro-Ficht’s past.

“My entire life everyone would call me Flamenca. Just adding that personal touch of my nickname from dancing Flamenco for so long was perfect since it had everything I needed and the meaning was important to me,” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

She explains how the word Fuerza means force or the fierce aspect of this style of dance since Flamenco is a very intense practice. Combining these two phrases created the concept behind her company.

Even as the group primarily focuses on Flamenco dance, Teijeiro-Ficht has also explained how the group leaves their choreography and training open to fusions with other styles of dance as well.

For Flamenco dance specifically, Teijeiro-Ficht has over 16 years of experience in the dance style and has come to love the fierce and unique nature of the art form.

“Flamenco involves every part of your body from the top of your head to your feet to your fingertips. We use our body as percussion so we will do some body hitting to make sounds and choreography to do a lot of footwork. I think overall, it just breeds a very well-rounded, disciplined, and technical dancer,” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

To showcase her dedication to this art form, Teijeiro-Ficht continues to keep the legacy of Flamenco alive in her own way with this company.

“My main goal was just to have fun and get out there and have people fall in love with it the way I did when I was younger,” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

Having the ability to persevere through her struggles and continue to reach new milestones at her company by performing and sharing her art with the world motivates her to continue her work.

“Just being able to engage with the audience while we're performing and making eye contact and having their faces light up. I had a few young girls walk past and as we were dancing, they would kind of mimic our movement and have these amazed looks on their faces,” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

Finding opportunities to provide her dancers with the most authentic costumes, props, and shoes were really important to Teijeiro-Ficht to give the performances the full experience.

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be as authentic as possible…This semester we did use a Flamenco costume designer to custom make our skirts and the props and all of that were traditional Flamenco props. A lot of it I did take on myself as the director recognizing we are all college students,” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

As the director of the company Teijeiro-Ficht is determined to create a safe and fun environment for her dancers and providing authentic material for performances is just one part of that endeavor.

“I would say when we first got our shoes for the first time, I was talking about it so much since we were so excited that we had raised enough to get every company member shoes directly from Spain,” Teijeiro-Ficht said. “I think that was one of the first moments that it all hit me that I had been doing all this work trying to create this organization.”

Kaleigh Mueller, the assistant director for La Fuerza Flamenca Dance group, has been a part of this journey since the creation of the company and explains how her experience with Teijeiro-Ficht has benefited her.

“She creates a very open environment where it’s safe to make mistakes and ask questions and have your voice heard. I like working with her because she has become a mentor to me and she’s kind of like my campus mom now. Working with her is something I really enjoy and I always look forward to it,” Mueller said.

Being an education major has allowed Teijeiro-Ficht to gain a lot of experience being a teacher but being in this leadership position is a two-way streak according to her, since a company does not run with just one person.

“I'm about to become a middle school teacher once I graduate. So teaching is just part of who I am and that originated with dance. I am teaching them in a way but I'm also learning a lot from every single one of them. Giving them the space to share their experiences and not just have it feel like I'm the one you know in charge is important.” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

Since Teijeiro-Ficht plans to move to Texas after graduation she won’t be able to continue this work on campus but will continue to keep the company alive and running.

“I think it would be really great for Flamenco to live on at the U of I campus after graduation and if not, I plan on taking it with me to Texas. Ideally, we will continue as a chapter of La Fuerza Flamenca but I guess everyone will have to stay tuned,” Teijeiro-Ficht said.

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