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‘You Learn, Then You Teach'

Ballet Folklorico dancers performing

March 2017

Ray Terronez Jr. '07, not only is teaching a group of more than 100 young people about Mexican culture through dance. He's teaching them about family, too.

Terronez is the volunteer director of Quad Cities Ballet Folklorico, a regionally recognized dance troupe that delights audiences at community performances and parades. The members range in age from 4 to 18.

Terronez spent much of his youth performing traditional Mexican dance as a member of Ballet Folklorico. He retired from performing at the age of 18, but returned as a volunteer to help as needed. While attending St. Ambrose, he became an assistant instructor for the ballet troupe.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History, and in 2008 began working for the Social Security Administration in Davenport. He became director of Ballet Folklorico the same year.

Terronez said his Ambrosian experience aids his work with the youth.

"I chose St. Ambrose because it is small," he said. "Everyone knows you, helps you. It felt like family. It is the same thing with our dance group. We are a family."

Terronez played varsity soccer for four years at SAU, starting early in his career before being relegated to a back-up role as the program grew stronger. He described that status change as a valuable experience. "I wasn't playing, but I was still on the team and supporting my teammates," he said. "I learned how to be a real team player."

Because there are so many youth dancers, Terronez has to choose who performs. For those who are not chosen, he shares his experience and stresses it is not due to lack of skill, but because they are a team, a family.

"All of these kids know everyone deserves a chance, an opportunity to showcase what they are learning. That real sense of unselfishness is what I want to convey to them and that is what they are getting. We are here for each other, we are not here for ourselves, and all of that comes from SAU soccer," Terronez said.

Leading Ballet Folklorico is a big job, but Terronez enjoys it. "My father always told me you learn something, you master it, then you teach it to others. That is what I am trying to do," he said.

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