Dance company pivots to providing COVID-19 resources

Luisa Zaragoza is the artistic and managing director at Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre in Medford. A project that started as a high school club in the ’90s has grown into a dance academy for children and youth in the Medford area. Luisa, originally from Mexico, takes great pride in providing opportunities for cultural movement and expression for youth in her community.

Through the pandemic, Luisa has seen how fear and misinformation can impact the well-being of those around her. Especially since many families in her community don’t speak English or know where to get reliable information.  

“There are resources out there, but if people don’t know how to access them, then we have a barrier,” Luisa says. She knew her relationship with families in the community was an opportunity to help.  

Last year, Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre partnered with the Oregon Health Authority and a couple of other local organizations to develop an education campaign providing information on COVID-19 and local resources through Facebook posts, phone calls, Zoom meetings and several drive-through events. 

“For me, this is very important work,” Luisa says. “We get people with questions from things they hear on social media, and we are able to help them. They know we get information from reliable sources and see us following security measures as well, so they trust us. In a way, we are an intermediary, and they depend on us as much as we depend on them.”  

As Oregon’s vaccination efforts are underway, Luisa has shifted some of her time to inform people on eligibility and vaccine locations. Meanwhile, she continues to offer folklorico dance classes to youth in her community and has even scheduled safely distanced performances at testing events.  

“The kids need this too. They feel like they’re contributing, and it gives them a place to escape from the many challenges they’ve experienced through the pandemic.” 

Learn more about Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre and OHA’s statewide program working with community-based organizations. 

This article first appeared in the March 17, 2021 issue of Oregon Coronavirus Update.