By Alondra Montes
When you step inside Leyenda Dance Co. you are greeted with kind and warm smiles from everyone, especially from instructor and owner Gabriela Pineault. Whether you’re there to dance or sit and observe, you can’t help but catch the energy from everyone in there.
Pineault was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico and has been dancing for 47 years. When she immigrated here to the United States she searched for a dance studio that provided classes for ballet folklorico which led her to discover that classes in the U.S. don’t offer the same teachings as the ones back home.
During her search she attended Riverside City College where she joined the college’s dance group. Her husband suggested that she start her own dance company. She said she wasn’t on board with the idea at first but with a little encouragement from him, Pineault decided to move forward with establishing Leyenda Ballet Folklorico in 2006.
Compared to other ridgid instructors, Pineault prides herself in providing a kind and nurturing environment for her dancers. She leads each practice with words of affirmation and encouragement, to group speeches that empower them to do better with continual practice.
The dance company has performed all around the world, including Hong Kong. Shortly before the trip to Hong Kong in 2008 Pineault was presented with her first obstacle, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her doctor advised to take a break for six months, but “I couldn’t let them down,” Pineault said, and went on to dance with her team in Hong Kong despite having surgery a month before the trip.
Building the company to the status it has reached came with lots of challenges. Due to being a solo entrepreneur Pineault was not able to qualify for any financial help.
“Being a solopreneur and starting with a zero or minus budget and doing pretty much everything on your own,” Pineault said.
With the help from donations, conferences and performances she is able to keep up with the daily financial cost that it takes to keep the business operating.
When the pandemic hit she kept teaching through Zoom, which was a very difficult process but she continued and pushed through. When restrictions and bans were lowered she noticed a sudden increase in depression, especially among older generations, she came up with the idea to teach Mexican Zumba classes in the morning. This led to teaching ballet folklorico to older women. That class has shown enough growth to begin performing all around the world just like her original performing class.
Connie Garcia, Leyenda’s oldest member, dreamed of performing since she was younger, unfortunately her parents couldn’t afford it. Now at the age of 67 she is finally out living her dreams.
“I came and joined and began practicing everyday just to keep up with everyone, age is not an issue if you have a passion for something, go and do it,” Garcia said.
Compared to other folklorico companies, Leyenda is known for their enthusiastic performances as well as their exaggerated movements and expressions. Their techniques and dances have paved the way for others to be inspired further.
The company is sought out to do many important performances. From movies in Hollywood to performing at concerts alongside Mexican artists such as Los Tigres Del Norte and Angela and Pepe Aguilar.
The beauty of Leyenda Dance Co. doesn’t stem from ridgid military style teachings, but it comes from teaching from the heart.
The dancers and choreographer alike practice showing honor and pride for what they do and who they are, not only representing Mexico but more importantly–yourself.
Alejandra Alvarez said it best, “It’s an experience where you learn many aspects from it not only from posture and exercise but this for my body, mind and soul.”
Everyone steps in with a grand smile and a drive to learn and perform. Their comrade inspires and empowers not only the dancers but the ones that have the opportunity to witness their performances.