Dance student achieves the American Dream

Teresa Flores, Dance and Music major, aspires to inspire others to follow on what they are passionate about.

Eunice Barron

Teresa Flores, Dance and Music major, aspires to inspire others to follow on what they are passionate about.

Eunice Barron and Cindy Canas

It has been said once by modern dancer, Martha Graham: “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.”

Only a few can obtain this vocation, it has been the case for Cerritos College student Teresa Flores who has come a long way on discovering her passion for the arts and overcame many challenges in order to obtain this.

Flores, dance and music major, has been dancing for 10 years, since she was 12 years old.

She recalls discovering her passion from an early age in her native city of Guadalajara.

“I started dancing when I was about 12 or 13 years old, what happened at that time of my life was that I lived here [in the United States] when I was younger since the age of seven until about 11 years old,” she recalls.

Flores said that she did not have any legal status when migrating to the country and came every six months with a tourist visa.

The purpose of her constantly migrating to the United States was to go to school and learn English along with her older brothers.

“When my brother and I tried to cross the border, one of the [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers stopped us and started to question us,” she remembered.

Eventually ICE found out about their situation, canceled their visas and were both send back to Mexico.

Flores recalls that this experience was important in her journey as a dancer because this was a time where she was truly alone without her parents at the age of 11.

“I grew up without my mom and dad. I lived at my grandmother’s house,” she said.

Her older brother was the only person who took care of her despite him being also young.

While growing up in Mexico, Flores was inspired by dance films in which the choreography always caught her attention.

“I’ve always had the itch for dancing, growing up I would always watch the Step Up movies. I kinda self-taught myself on copying moves [from the movie franchise]. I’ve always been big on movement, so dance was a calling,” she recalls.

He remembers telling her brother that she wanted to dance and her brother eventually looked into a performing arts academy located in downtown Guadalajara.

The performing arts academy that Flores attended was called Mae Africa.

With the support of her brother, she first began dancing at that academy.

She remembers always feeling “depressed” as a child and that her dance classes kept her “alive” during those hard times.

All through middle school, she attended to her dance classes for almost everyday of the week as she could.

One of the greatest challenges that she went through was overcoming the dangers of where she lived.

“The ‘colonia’ [neighborhood] where I lived was the belt of poverty, it was one of those ‘colonias’ that no one would pay attention to,” she said.

She remembers that she would go to school with kids who couldn’t afford to buy a pair of shoes and would go to school hungry.

Flores remembers that “a lot of things would happened” while living in the neighborhood.

“There were a lot of delinquency and gangs,” she said.

The streets of her neighborhood were unsafe and would often come back home late at night.

She would take three buses to go home from her ballet classes.

Many people in her community suffered a lot of danger, poverty and access to resources.

After finishing high school, Flores was determined to get out of Guadalajara and go out to experience another place.

Her options were to travel to Los Angeles, Mexico City or in the Mexican state of Sinaloa to study dance.

She eventually decided to come to Los Angeles to be with her mother and eventually became a resident.

She left everything in Mexico and came to Los Angeles to seek opportunities in dance.

Without really knowing much about the U.S. school system, Flores ended up taking courses at Cerritos College.

After a couple of semesters, Flores was about to drop out of college due to a knee injury.

“I was going crazy because I couldn’t dance,” she said.

For about two years, she suffered from this injury.

After successfully auditioning for the music program, she was able to gain more confidence in her vocation.

After taking therapy for her injury, her knee improved.

She recalls her knee injury improvement as a “miracle from God” and promised to touch lives with her vocation.

Ever since her experience, she started to dance again and has never looked back.

Flores has left a huge impression with many performing arts professors such as ballet instructor, Phoenix Cole, ” I love working with her just because of the progress she has made throughout the years and as well as her facility [that] she’s able to do these things [such as to sing and dance] that most people find it difficult.”

Cole has also described his student as a “warm and kind” person towards her peers in class.

One professor that has known Flores since 2016 is the dance faculty instructor, Christine Gregory.

“She is the student in class that wants to be right, front and center, taking all of the corrections, to be the first person to try something new and is a leader in almost every class she is in,” she said.

“What’s so beautiful about Teresa is that who she is as a person resinates into her work and performances, she is one of the most natural raw talents that we have in this department.” Gregory adds.

Another person that has enjoyed having her as a student is private vocal instructor, Rhonda Dillon, said, ” I love her, she’s enchanting, she is a natural born performer!”

“As a singer, she’s tackled some impossible repertoire,” Dillon said, “She can do it all, we will soon she her on stage.” she smiled.

Flores is currently on her last semester and will be transferring to California State University Long Beach in the fall.

She will continue to major in dance and minor in music.

In the future, Flores hopes to keep inspiring people with her vocation and wants to give back to her community back in Guadalajara.

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Theresa Flores 0:00
Hi, I’m Theresa Flores. I’m originally Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. And I started dancing. When I was about, I’m gonna say 12 or 13 years old. So, um, what what happened at that time in my life was that I actually lived out here in America when I was younger. So I came out here from the age of seven, until about 11 years old. And what happened was that we didn’t have papers, I came out here with the visa. So my brothers, my brothers and I, we would come in and out of the, of the country constantly, but because we didn’t have visa, we would always say that we’re right here on vacation. But I was actually studying not here and stuff like that. So I was doing my elementary out here. And I did like one year of middle school out here when I was younger. And one time what happened was that when my brother and I were trying to cross the border, one of the immigrant officers actually stopped me. And then he, so then they started questioning us, you know, like, Where are you guys going? Like, how, because they started, they started to ask questions about my life in Mexico, because I was supposed to live in our in Mexico, because I have papers are here. But I didn’t know anything. Because obviously, I wasn’t doing school in Mexico. So when they found out about that, they literally kicked us out. So they put us first in a little office. And then my brother and I, we were just retained there for a couple of hours. They interviewed us, they, they took our visas away, Counselor papers. And then from there, that’s how I ended up in Mexico again, at the age of 12 years old. So the reason why I tell you about this is because it was very important for my journey as a dancer, because when that happened to me, at the age of 11, I was literally out in Mexico alone without my mom without my dad. And I was out there when my grandma’s house, but kind of just everybody lives to my grandma’s house. So it was like it was a bunch of in that house, I didn’t feel like I had a steady tutor out there. You know, and my brother, he was taking care of me, but he was really young himself. So that was kind of hard. So I I’ve always had the itch for dancing. You know, I remember when I was younger, I would watch like the step up and, and then I would just I kind of self taught myself to like do handstands and just like copy moves and stuff like that always been a big, big on movement. So dance is just, you know, also calling. And when I went out to Mexico, I told my brother that I wanted to dance. So what he did was that she she looked up a school that was in downtown Mexico, it’s actually on, if anybody knows Mexico, or Guadalajara, it was in the two templos, which is like a very iconic place there in downtown Mexico. And the the academy that I used to go to was right there in front of the two templos them on the 16 de Septembre, again, so it was just kind of like a local little school, you know, nothing professional, nothing big, it was so sad. But I started dancing there. And so my brother, you know, he would support me whatever he could. So I just started going out there. So I started dancing there when I was about 12 years old. Now something that was very impactful for me out while I was out there was that, I mean, I was a kid at 12 years old, alone out there, you know, so that, that them gave me a very nostalgic feeling all the time, I was a very, I guess, depressed kid, you know, and the only time that I actually felt maybe a little bit more alive, or they gave me a little bit of field was the dance class. You know, so I would always go out and train train that was like, I started Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then after a couple of months, and I was training like Monday to Saturday, like every time I could, you know, I was just like so touched. And I remember a particular memory about this academy, and like when I started dancing was that, since the temple was right there, I would always ways get to the academy a little bit earlier. And I would go into the novel going to one of the temples, and I will start listening to Beethoven music. And then specifically when I found that there, and when I would like to listen to that song, I would just like start crying. And I did that for a couple of months. Because I mean, I miss my family, I miss my mom, you know, my mom was out here I was like 12 years old, I was little I didn’t I didn’t really know what was going on. And I remember that specific, it was kind of like clean scene for me, I will get into that in that temple of a cry for as long as I had to cry. And then after that, go to my dance class, you know, so it was kind of like between that and this that kind of gave me that, that clean scene type of thing. So from there, all through middle school, I danced in that same Academy, you’re interested in my background at home? Well, when I was living out there, I was living in my grandma’s house. And the colony that because over there, right here we have cities out there is colonial colonial colonial era was that it’s called at the sinus and its neighbors city to elevate him. So everybody knows everybody here, that thing over here looks like the big one. And it’s it’s like a, it’s kind of a merchant type of colony, it I would say is the bill of poverty. You know, out there, it was just one of those little, like, little colonies out there that nobody paid attention to. I mean, it’s because there’s so many colonies out there, you know, that it was just kind of like a side colony. And out there a lot of things would happen in that colony. Oh my god. So yeah, to start off if people that usually lived out out there didn’t do much, you know, like they had a specific a specific way of living which was you know, you grew up you have kids, you get fed up. You work you work around any the local businesses in the colony, then your kids grow. And then they have kids and stuff like that. So like generation, because I will see my, my friends and their kids and like and I would see us like a constant pattern. Constant constant better. And then also there was a lot of delinquency. A lot of cynically see one of the things that I remember the most of growing up was the gangs out there, you know, and there was one of the gangs who was called those 18. That’s what they were called. The other guy was called rubia. Yeah. Which is rubia we’re going to go ahead as well in rubia Yeah, what was it? That was our local guy, the one that we were at, and then crossing some train tracks up of my grandma’s house, there was some other ones that were called, I’m thinking, pina, it was something being so there was just a lot of gangs everywhere. And a lot of those gangs were obviously confirmed by their young people, you know, so what they would do was that there was constantly fighting. So like, even though for example, my childhood was composed a lot of like, going out and playing with the dirt. And like, you know, like, everybody just come out and play soccer and stuff like that, sometimes we really had to be careful that the gangs weren’t around, because when they were around, we had to immediately go back inside the house, you know, and let them do whatever they had to do one time specifically, because I would always come back from ballet class at like, 11 in the night, because the colony where I live was far from where everything happened.

Eunice 7:39
Wow.

Theresa Flores 7:40
See, and that’s, I think that was another thing that actually impacted that people in the colonies didn’t do much. Because it took a lot of effort and like drive to actually go find and do stuff, because, like downtown will on a holiday is where the whole movement is going on, like for those things going on. But it will take me like an hour and a half while in the bus to get out to my school to my dance school. So, um, it was just my drive, because I wanted to, you know, learn so I would always commit to doing that. But I remember my dance class let out if it started at 7:30. And it was like, nine 9:30. So I wouldn’t have to take three buses to get home. Okay. And then, um, so it was already really, really late. And I and I would always end up getting home, like, around 11:30 that was like, you know, and my older brother would always pick me up from up this little hill where the bus stop was that always, always, always, always prefer some reason. That day, he he didn’t pick me up, I don’t remember why I don’t remember, he wasn’t home, I don’t know. But I just remember I got there. And so we’re from the bus stop is there’s like a little hill going down. And then my grandma’s house is like right here. But that little hill first is always dark, because even though they put the bulbs like the street lamps, people always like, you know, they break them. And then on the other side of the hill, there’s just some water tubes for big water too. So this was actually like, my childhood playground. Well, though, is that coming down from the hill, you know, since there’s like four tubes, there’s like nobody there, down that hill. And, you know, it’s just kind of watching out because it’s, it’s dark, or it’s not the greatest, like the floor is dirt is rocks, and everything’s just like, just level. So like, if you run like you really get it, you know, and like, watch how we’re running. So I remember coming down, and then as soon as I started seeing, you know, like coming out of the black. So there was a wall. And then I remember there was like, three men, like on the wall, there was this one woman. And then there was like, like, if I like three or two big cars, you know, big bands. And there was like three people like this, like this big guns. I think they’re called them. I asked later, and they’re called querno de chivo. Yeah, yeah, they’re like those big ones. So I get there. And obviously, I mean, at that time, I was what like 17, you know, thanks young or whatever, they didn’t even mind me because like I said, they already know who lives around the place. All I had to do was I had two options, like either go back, go around the the water tubes to get to my to my grandma’s house, or just go like through it. And just pretend like I didn’t see anything. So I was so used to these things that I was just like, okay, you’re not so literally what ended up happening was like, here’s the wall, the people here are the guns. And I ended up passing, like, through the middle, you know, and all I did was just like, not like they didn’t even care. Now that I’m older, and that I’m out of that place is when I’m like, okay, because when I lived in that place, I mean, it was it was my daily life, you know, it was like what I was used to seeing and, and, and even I remember in school, like I would, I would go to school with people that didn’t have shoes, like out there are like their parents on what their moms would be prostitutes, and like the local bars, or they would go to school hungry, you know, I mean, it kind of buried in like economic statuses, but there was some statuses that were really low, like, within our community, and stuff like that. And then, um, yeah, so I was very, I guess, like, used to the environment I lived in. And then now that I’m out here, and you know, I’m older, I realized, like, That’s not right. You’re not even been, I knew it will survive, but knowledge is it really touches me like, there, there has to be something done out there, you know, because it’s still not taking care of that colony. And it’s not just that colony, it says, In Mexico, there’s a lot of places like that. And unfortunately, I was or fortunately How to say unfortunately, because it kind of builds a lot of my character. I was, you know, I was raised in that place. Um, what else? Um, so I guess also a really good thing, though, about like, living out there. And I’ve seen this and I’m not as this is a trend in different places is like when people are, are in poverty, or when people are, like, in need of stuff, there’s a bit more sense of community, I think so. You know, because, like, compared here to America, I feel like out here, everybody’s so comfortable, in, you know, with what they do, and like, they’re so safe in their cell phones, there’s not much interaction. You know, even like neighbors to neighbors, there’s not like a lot going on. And in Mexico. You know, since we I guess we all share the need of like, some common, I don’t know, either food or water, because sometimes there was lack of water in the coloring, and stuff like that. Also, we had a lot of lack of electricity. And I think that was because sometimes the delinquency around they would steal the cables, and that stuff or not now, like, they will literally steal the cables, or like they would, you know, like, somehow plugged themselves to another electricity source so they wouldn’t have to pay for the electricity. So there’s just a lot of things that go on like that. And you know, that place. So even though we had hardship, like there was a lot of really, I did have like, I mean, I was really young when I had to start living alone, because I was practically I felt kind of living alone, you know, because even though I was with my grandma and stuff, like I said, Everybody lives you know, like, I didn’t have a like a tutor like that. Until my brother like he, he eventually started taking care of me. And he became my left mentor, my intro, he’s like, the biggest Angela. I think if it wasn’t because of him, I wouldn’t be dancing, because he actually inspired me to be like, Yeah, do it, just do it. My high school. So my high school, I actually got into a performing arts high school, which I think was one of my biggest goals, because in that school, it was some from Mega status. So it was it was Yeah, it was directly from the AMA. And they chose 40 students per year. So I’d have like 180 applicants, it was just like, 40 students that would make it into the program. You know, it sounds like my gut is like, I wanted that school. So I ended up making it to the school and, and also was because my brother told me about it. High School. I wanted, I wanted to make a decision, because I didn’t want to stay what I had anyone, you know, not because there was nothing wrong with it. But I just felt like I wanted to see something else. So I had two options. Well, I was thinking about either going to Mexico City to audition for, they have a they have a school of contemporary art, it’s their company’s called pocketbook. And I really liked their work. And also, you know, that might be interesting to do. And then after that, I thought I’ve seen a lower, because they have another company there. It’s called Bell force, they have a company and a school there. So I thought I might audition for that. And then my third option was coming out here to LA, because LA is huge, like the industry is big, you know, so that I could come out today and be with my mom, you know, and my mom is a citizen here. So she had got me on my residents. That’s that’s how I was able to come back. Yes, my mom fought through for those papers, like, like, it was nobody’s business, you know, she just like went through processes, I remember we will go out to them to see that fight is a lot. You know, and I would, I would go out there by myself, like at the age of 14, like, you know, on the, you know, on the planet, just meet my mother out there. Like we do that a lot of times, a couple of times, we did that just so we can see each other, she will cross the border from Texas. And I was just like, get there on Aquinas and like, I would see her so I would go out there a lot to see my mom, because I mean, I was like, it was like six years or so with all my mom out here. And sometimes I will spend like two three years without seeing her. So that was that was kind of rough. Yeah, that was really rough. came out here. My idea of coming out here was to dance. Yeah, that that was my goal, you know, like, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to train. And even though my concept and approach of dance has changed, obviously, because I growing older, because you know, there’s a lot of things that happened in my life. I’ve always known that my place in this life is in the arts, you know, because that’s where I found my vocation, okay. And that’s where I feel, I’m gonna be able to touch life, because that’s where I’m the most powerful. So I always directly or indirectly embrace that. So I’m like, yeah, I’m gonna go out out there, and I’m gonna see what else I could do in the dance world. So I come out here, and sit or nothing, like, didn’t know how the school system worked, didn’t know nothing. I learned it, just throw myself out here. I left everything out there. I was in I was, I was teaching in a school, I was dancing in like, a school called down score. And it was a good school, you know, I was training with them. I was doing ballet with a really good teacher. I was very, I was set. And I learned left everything and came out here. So the change was kind of like, you know, and my, one of my brothers lives here. And he told me about the school. So he literally rolled me like, I had no idea. I had no idea about like the school is how much it was going to cost like nothing. You know, the only thing I came out here for was to dance, and I ended up in college. So my brother will mean school, I come in here and I see the classes. And I’m like, I don’t I’m also sure that’s what I wanted, you know, I wasn’t sure if this is this type of dance dance that I want. And so I give it a shot a couple of semesters. And then I was I was ready to drop out of college like I was I was already I was not having a I was I’ve always worked in dance, you know. So when I came out here, I also started teaching in a local studio, like right away. I’ve always, like ever since I’ve been like 15 I’ve taught them and like different academies, I’ve done events, like continuous and stuff, like, like, I’m going through a lot, you know, a lot of financial stuff. Also, because I had a very hard time with, I had a big injury. And my, like a really big injury that was that became chronic to me, because it wouldn’t heal, you know, and I mean, I will be good. And then I would try to dance again. And then it’ll go bad. And it was just horrible. And this is, I think one of the biggest highlights I’ve had in my life, in my, in my process as an artist. And obviously, as a dancer, was that I was kind of going crazy, because I couldn’t dance, like I was going to press like I, I couldn’t I, I was on finding a meaning. And while I was still out here, you know, so I was kind of ready to just maybe drop out of college, and then also maybe go back to Mexico, you know, it was just it was kind of a rough time. And by this time I was maybe what like 1819 you know, so I was still pretty young. I think so and, you know, it was kind of hard for me to to digest what really was going on in my life. So yeah, I mean, that was that that went on and off for me for like about two years, or Yeah, two years, year and a half. And what ended up happening was that at that timeframe, my I feel like my, my spirit was really crushed because I didn’t I didn’t have a way to downside. You know, I I missed my body I missed, I miss being able to move and like feeling that and stuff. So, yeah, since I felt like I needed to do something, I ended up auditioning for the music program here. Just cuz, you know, I was like, I had nothing to lose. I think if I wouldn’t have made it to the music program, I would have dropped out of college. I went to the music program. And just, you know, I, I didn’t know anything about music, I didn’t know how to read music. I absolutely nothing. I just went in. And turns out, I made it into the program. I was like, Okay, did I really didn’t expect anything of it. I was just like, 12 years old. But now I’m two years into the program. And I’ve grown so much like as a musician and, and I think that was like God’s calling, you know, to be like this, like, for him to like, put me back in the place where like, No, no, like, you still you still got this vocation, like, you still have to follow this. So being in the music program kind of encouraged me to still saying school, you know, still to this. And, and again, it’s all you know, in the art space, performing arts space, so I feel like dance and music, they’re, they’re kind of, you know, sisters in a way in my life, you know. So I’m going back to my name problem. As I was healing my knee, I was in the music program, right? And then went to therapy, you know, like, started getting a better this and that it got better. And then it’s not so good, isn’t that and then I remember one day because I will go out to the beach a lot and just kind of I’m a very like spiritual person. So even though I don’t belong to religion, per se, I am very strong in my belief of like, why we’re send out here and and what’s our purpose, you know, and stuff like that. So, um, yeah, I remember like speaking out to God and, and I just kind of, like, on the desperation went to my knees. And I was like, you know, what, like, what I feel if you’re done this is, I think it’s, it’s, it’s not human, you know, it’s, it’s like dance transcends transcends us, like the body insurance and so many things like I, it didn’t make sense to me, that I was going to have to stop dancing, because my knee wasn’t getting better. So I put it out there for him. And I said, For God, whoever God may be, you know, like that, that that hierarchy power, spiritual, Spiritual Hierarchy power, I spoke out to the universe. And I said, this is this is what I meant to be. And I know that this is where I’m gonna be able to touch lives. You know, so if, like, just help me, like, help me heal this thing, like, help me get my knee problem solved. Because I can’t dance, you know. And then I remember I, I remember, like, thinking, I’m gonna dedicate my whole dance career. And I’m going to dedicate my whole process and as a dancer and stuff like that, like, to your will, you know, like, make whatever you have to make of it with me, because I’m only human. And I believe that as humans, just at this level, weird, we can’t really touch lives if we don’t really connect, you know, with with something higher, you know, at least that’s, that’s, that’s how I feel in my heart. So that tells me that clicked. And then, no, I and I mean, I call it a miracle. Really, you know, after that happened, yeah, I was still in the music program. But I started dancing again. And I started dancing really, like it was nobody’s business. And that happened, maybe I don’t know, like, maybe I’m gonna say maybe two years ago, I can’t, I can’t really put a like a finger on the day. But I’ve been dancing. Now. Like I said, I just came back from the convention, this last day, we’re obsessing four days in a row, you know, back to back, I’ve been taking classes all the time. Now, I’ve been doing auditions. transferring to classical music semester is a dance major, not and I should be doing and also, um, I think I’m gonna be end up doing a minor in music other as well. And, yeah, and my knee and like, it’s good. When we set ourselves goals, like, like, Okay, I’m going to do this, like, in the past, you know, in the next five years is something that it kind of limits us to, to the flow of life. You know, so, I think, and this works for me, it’s like, just the authentic, I’m saying authentic to my vocation. That’s what I see myself doing, you know, just staying authentic, staying true. Keeping the the soul the spirit alive, you know, and, and grounded and, and also elevated and, and then from that, you know, life is so fragile. A lot of things happen in the way. And I mean, the vocation will take you where you have to be

Eunice 24:13
here what some Cerritos College Performing Arts instructors have to say about Theresa.

Cerritos College Instructor 24:19
To me, personally, I think Teresa is very warm, and kind person. And she works very hard. And she dedicated herself to the ups of dance. And now I love working with her just because of the progress that she made throughout the years. And as well as her facility, she’s able to do these things that most other people may find it difficult, not just the facility, but also her mind the way she thinks also set her apart in terms of how to digest the materials, and also very passionate about the movements and the quality of the work that she puts up.

Cerritos College Instructor #2 25:04
So I have known Theresa Flores since 2016. She was in my hip hop class at first. And she’s also dropped in on my ballet classes, and my modern classes. So I’ve had it for quite a few different types of dance. And she is the student in class that wants to be right front and center, taking all the corrections wanting to be the first person to try things out if I’m throwing something new at all the students and she’s very much a leader in every class that she’s in. And that includes rehearsals for our dance concerts. And what’s so beautiful about three says that, who she is as a person just resonates in her work in terms of her ethic. And her performance. I think she is one of the most naturally raw, talented dancers that we have had in this department. And finding out that she has so many other talents, including acting and singing and just music in general, really helped to just separate her from all the other students.

Cerritos College Instructor #3 26:12
She’s a born performer, born performer. She’s amazing. She can do it all. We’re going to see her in lights. She’s figuring out that with all these arts, how how we work together and articulate and how you can be involved in so many different things. So, you know, I think that’s really cool. I think we’re a good team. And there are some students that you know, number one will succeed. And number two, that that are going to be great friends of yours through your whole life. And Teresa’s one.

Transcribed by Cindy Canas