Meet one St. Paul dancer sparked by Flint Hills Children’s Festival

Jaime DeLage, Pioneer Press 5/28/15

Jazmin Glaser-Kelly would be a dancer even if the International Children’s Festival never existed, but she says she wouldn’t be the dancer she is today.

Her gestures wouldn’t be as big, she says, and her smile wouldn’t be as bright. And she probably wouldn’t know as much about the dances she performs and teaches if she hadn’t been exposed to so many art forms from so many places.

“I don’t know as a Mexican folkloric dancing teacher if I would take it to the level I do now,” Glaser-Kelly said.

“I think if the Children’s Festival weren’t around, I wouldn’t ever put the meaning to it.”

The Flint Hills International Children’s Festival is celebrating its 15th year in St. Paul this weekend, and Glaser-Kelly, 24, has taken part annually since the first one in 2001. She has participated as a young audience member, a volunteer and as a dancer with Los Alegres Bailadores, a Mexican dance group based in St. Paul.

The festival experience has been valuable not just for her, but also for the children and audiences she works with.

“I feel it’s helped me to be more passionate with what I’m doing,” Glaser-Kelly said.

That’s exactly what the festival’s organizers are shooting for. They offer subsidized tickets and free busing to help bring schoolchildren to the festival’s School Days, Tuesday through Friday. This year a record 19,000 or more schoolchildren will attend.

An additional 30,000 children, parents and grandparents are expected to see ticketed shows or check out the free stages and hands-on art projects on Family Weekend.

Sponsors including Flint Hills Natural Resources, 3M, Xcel Energy and Wells Fargo help pay to bring in artists from around the world in hopes of inspiring and expanding all those young minds.

Festival coordinator Dayna Martinez said she often hears from artists who say they were affected by performances they saw at the children’s festival.

“It sparks that creative thing that’s inside you,” she said. “They say people who are exposed to the arts as children are better problem-solvers when they grow up. It’s important to have your mind opened when you are young.”

Glaser-Kelly, who works for the Science Museum of Minnesota doing school outreach programs, grew up on St. Paul’s West Side in a family of singers and dancers, including members of the Kico Rangel Band that was famous for its mambas and cha-chas in the 1950s.

But she still had a lot to learn about art and performance, and she says she learned much of it by seeing and trying new art at the children’s festival.

“Being so close to the performers has made me a better performer,” she said. “Learning about making eye contact, making my actions larger than they are, it’s helped me go into the masters class.”

Glaser-Kelly has been a master in Los Alegres Bailadores for about 10 years, since she was 14. The dance group will perform two free outdoor shows this weekend. The whole group, from 3-year-olds to masters, will perform at 11 a.m. Saturday on the Landmark Stage. And the masters group will perform with Mariachi Flor y Canto at noon Sunday on the Flint Hills World Stage.

Now after years of being inspired by other artists, Glaser-Kelly is the one inspiring tomorrow’s performers.

“They’ve always been out there smiling, but now just seeing that kids or parents are so into the performance gives me another boost of energy,” she said. “Especially when the parents come up and ask for more info about the dance or ‘Can my kids get involved?’ “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *