ABILENE, Tx. (KTAB/KRBC) — Stitch by stitch and seam by seam, a West Texas dressmaker has given shape to the St. Vincent Pallotti Ballet Folklorico group in Abilene.
Damis Hernandez is the dressmaker behind the group with more than 30 years of experience. As a young girl growing up in Primero de Mayo, Coahuila, Mexico, Hernandez discovered her calling as a stress counselor at the age of 15.
“Ballet folklorico is something that is celebrated a lot in Mexico, it’s a tradition,” Hernandez said.
She said her grandmother inspired her to take up sewing.
“She came here to the United States and said that they made good money. I said, ‘Okay, I’m also going to do that,’ but no, my parents gave me an education in Mexico, and there I started working, and here I do it as a hobby. I like it. It’s my hobby,” Hernandez said.
Later at the age of 20, Hernandez would make her way to the United States. Although her experience in Mexico was making dresses for weddings, quinceañeras, school uniforms, etc., she would be asked to expand her skill set with culture-rich ballet folklorico dresses and costumes.
“Someone recommended me to the San Vicente Church, and I’ve been trying to help them as much as I can,” Hernandez said. “I like it when I see the dresses. I say that I do something wonderful because it’s a lot of work, but I like it.”
Hernandez said it takes about a week to make a single dress.
“It takes a lot of material, more than 30 yards per dress and about 200 yards of ribbon to attach it. It’s tiring, but after it’s complete, I say it looks great,” she said.
What makes Hernandez unique is her ability to craft ballet folklorico dresses and costumes is something that’s exclusive to the St. Vincent Pallotti Ballet Folklorico, and for a reason.
“It’s just what the ballet asks of me,” she said. “It’s for the ballet because another ballet can’t bring the same as another. Everyone has their own style of how to make a dress, and every dancer has their own style of dress to dance with.”
As each generation passes, the traditions of the ballet folkrico become increasingly difficult to keep alive, and Hernandez sees the challenge as well.
“Nobody likes it. My daughters don’t like to sew, but it’s something marvelous, and I believe it’s not just knowing, but it’s a talent,” she said.
All in all, Hernandez is thankful for the gift of her craft that her father gave her.
“I feel proud,” she said. “Proud of doing this type of work. More than anything, I’m proud of myself and my father who put a lot of effort into providing education, and that’s how I learned how to do this. I owe it to my father.”