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Graciela dancing

Our first school visit, in 1980

40 years ago Graciela was invited to dance at our oldest daughter’s primary school... (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The entrance to Ethelburga Primary School, Battersea; the hall is on the right.
The entrance to Ethelburga Primary School, Battersea; the hall is on the right. (Click on image to enlarge)

On April 2nd. 1980 Graciela was asked to perform some Mexican folk dances in front of the entire school (including our two oldest, Romy and Paulo) at Ethelburga Primary School, Battersea, London, by Romy’s teacher Joan O’Pray. The school has since closed, sadly. Joan went on to become Headteacher of Sheringdale Primary School, Wandsworth for many years and, in recognition of her services to the local community, she was awarded an MBE by the Queen.

Ian supported, Andean style...
Ian supported, Andean style...

Ian supported by demonstrating some Bolivian folk instruments. Paulo danced the Jarabe Tapatío (Mexican Hat Dance) with Graciela.

The entry in our diary for that day reads “Very spontaneous. Very well received. Decision made returning home by car that Graciela could do this on a regular basis ...” Little did we know! We’ve kept a record of every single school visit ever since...

Our first school visit entry
Our first school visit entry

Recalling that (for us) momentous day, Joan has generously written the following:-

Who would have thought that, 35 years later, such an amazing venture has affected the learning of so many thousands of children? I remember the very first performance at Ethelburga which was almost an experiment and certainly a dry run. I realised from the onset, however, the show would definitely go on and on.

Joan O’Pray, MBE
Joan O’Pray, MBE (Click on image to enlarge)

Mexicolore wasn’t about telling children about Mexico, the Aztecs and the Mayas. I could have done that as a class teacher, reading a book to them, showing them some relevant pictures and maybe even introducing a slide show to really bring it all to life! They would have forgotten about it all in no time.
What Mexiclore was able to achieve, through the differing talents of the two of you, was the children’s immersion in the whole experience. They were actively engaged in the access to Mexican culture as though they were living through it. No mean feat!
I worked for forty years with specialist Artists in Residence, Dramatists, Historians, Scientists, Musicians and a whole range of experts who brought a rich curriculum to the children and whom I valued.
But the great strength of Mexicolore is in the range of different aspects of Mexican and Aztec life that it encompasses. Is there any other company that gives children access to music, song, dance, art, history, geography and cooking? I doubt it. Now there’s value for money for you!

MANY THANKS, Joan! If it wasn’t for you, Mexicolore wouldn’t exist!

• B/W photos of Graciela and Ian taken by Tessa Howland/IFL at Bellenden Primary School, SE London, November 1980 - no photos were taken at the time at Ethelburga School
• Photo of Ethelburga School from the London County Council Photograph Library, courtesy of and © London Metropolitan Archives, City of London, cat. ref. SC/PHL/02/0315/69/8232.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Mar 10th 2015

Collage (source of the photo of Ethelburga Primary School)
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