MUSICIAN, DANCER STAYS IN TUNE
Yamil Gaona Miranda knows how to keep a beat.
Since elementary school, she has been stepping and twisting at all the right moments for Ballet Folklorico, a traditional Mexican dance group. In middle school, she picked up the guitarrón, a mariachi band’s version of the bass guitar, and now she keeps the whole group on time.
“The dance is our culture. We’re so lucky to have the folklorico and mariachi programs here,” her mother Maria Miranda said in Spanish. “She gives time and effort into everything she does. She has a passion. Everything she does, she wants to do well.”
Yamil Gaona Miranda initially wanted to try traditional ballet, but classes at a local studio were full, so she turned to the Forest Grove School District’s folklorico program, which includes elaborate outfits and a variety of dance styles from different regions of Mexico.
Her parents are from Michoacán, west of Mexico City, where the “Danza de los Viejitos,” or the “Dance of the Little Old Men,” is popular. The four old men in the dance represent earth, air, fire and water.
Miranda said ballet is her favorite of her pursuits. She practices folklorico and mixes it up with hip-hop in front of a mirror in her garage.
“It can be tough to dance with the long skirts,” Gaona Miranda said. “They get heavy.”
Gaona Miranda joined the mariachi band in the seventh grade when they needed somebody to play the guitarrón, a large handheld bass with both nylon and steel strings.
She is currently the only guitarrón player, which means she might have to train a replacement next year for when she graduates.
The Forest Grove High School mariachi band has traveled to festivals in Texas and Arizona. It opened for Latin Grammy Award-winners Flor de Toloache at the Newmark Theater in Portland this past February.
“I love playing and just looking at the crowd and helping theAn m have fun,” Gaona Miranda said. “Mariachi is mostly just fun, but it can be kind of stressful keeping the beat and everything. I know a lot of women usually play the instrument, so I like being able to do that.”
Gaona Miranda also runs cross-country in the fall and track and field in the spring, specializing in distance races like the 1,500- and 3,000-meter events. To train, she sticks to her favorite 4-mile route around Echo Shaw Elementary and Neil Armstrong Middle schools and then back home.
“I like racing with other people and challenging myself,” she said.
On a whim, she even joined the swim team as a sophomore.
This spring, Gaona Miranda is preparing a year-end mariachi and ballet folklorico performance, where she will both dance and pick her guitarrón. There are also advanced placement calculus and language exams to study for, and the night stand she has to finish for woodworking class.
Looking forward, she isn’t sure what she wants to do other than test out a wide variety of experiences — artistic, academic or athletic.
“I’ve been thinking about it, but there isn’t one thing I really want to do. I just want to get there and try some different things and figure it out,” Gaona Miranda said. “I just like trying new things. I don’t want to regret it later. I just want to meet new people and take advantage of the opportunities.”