Artist of the Month - November 2019
Written By Jim T. Gammill
Arts Council Menifee
Lorena Hancock was born and raised in Mexico and went to school to become an educator. Part of the curriculum to become a teacher in her native land was to be well-versed in Mexican folklore, or Folklórico. Classes taught different subject matter, sometimes the curriculum would cover traditional songs, cultural stories, and even dance. Even though the content of the lessons varied, the goal all remained the same: to pass on the rich culture of Mexico from one generation to another.
After finishing her education, Lorena took a job as a kindergarten teacher and began to pass on the lessons that she had learned to her students. She would tell stories, explain cultural practices, and celebrate the vibrant culture through dance. She taught in Mexico for five years before moving to the United States in 1991. She met her husband around this time and the couple raised two children together.
It wasn’t long after Lorena came to America that she felt herself pulled back into being an educator. She took a job as a preschool teacher in Lake Elsinore, but couldn’t help but remember how good it felt to pass on Mexican culture at her old job. When her own children grew to school age, she realized what her and her children’s lives had been missing.
“Kids need Folklórico! I looked for classes and the closest I could find was in Riverside, way too far to drive for classes,” Hancock remembers.
Lorena approached the city of Lake Elsinore and asked if they knew of any classes locally, after describing what she was looking for the city offered her the opportunity to start her own Folklórico class. It started in 1999 with a group of six kids, two of which were her own. Just a month later, her group was invited to perform at a local elementary school for a cinco de mayo celebration. With the group being so new, they didn’t have any costumes, but the school had some on hand that they were able to lend to Lorena’s class.
“The kids were so new and we didn’t have much time to practice the dances, but they enjoyed being dressed up and performing. Everyone had fun and the kids really did do a great job,” Lorena reflects.
Word of her Ballet Folklórico program spread quickly and it wasn’t long before she had to make other classes to accommodate the growing number of students. The program soon found itself accepting students from Temecula, Menifee, and even Hemet. Lorena remembered her own frustrations in trying to find Folklórico classes for her own children and took it upon herself to approach other cities to start their own programs. She opened a program in the city of Temecula in 2004 and another in Menifee in 2016.
Her groups have performed in several types of cultural events across Southern California including locations in Los Angeles and San Diego’s Balboa Park in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
At the time of the writing of this article Lorena and her Ballet Folklórico group are performing several local events in celebration of Dia De Los Meurtos, an event that Lorena was happy to explain:
“People sometimes associate Dia De Los Muertos with Halloween because of the time of year. In Mexican culture it is when God gives permission to loved ones who have passed to visit us on Earth. We celebrate them with dance, food, and happiness!”
Lorena Hancock has performed at several functions within the city of Menifee, including many sponsored by Arts Council Menifee. Arts Council Menifee Trustee, Colleen Ackerman had the following to say about Lorena Hancock:
“Lorena brings joy to everyone she teaches and to all who are fortunate enough to watch the performances she directs. Always willing to get involved, Lorena has brought cultural diversity to many city and Arts Council Menifee events with her wonderful and talented students. I am extremely grateful for the smiles she has put on so many faces, including mine!"
Her passion for Ballet Folklórico and Mexican tradition has enriched the hearts of many and has added to the cultural diversity of the cities in which she teaches. It is for this and her dedication to her craft that Arts Council Menifee is pleased to name Lorena Hancock as November’s Artist of the Month.