José Luis Ovalle González was born in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas Mexico on September 23, 1959 and came to Chicago in 1973. He graduated from Harrison High School and took his first dance classes at 14 years of age as part of an extra-curricular program with Ms. Balbina Solano, an experienced dancer of the legendary Ballet Folklórico Azteca directed by the late Federico Rodríguez. José received his formal dance education at the Universidad Juárez del Estado de Durango (UJED) under the direction of Mr. Santos Salas Mata. José was awarded a scholarship in 1976 and another in 1977 to Mexico city's School of Folk Dance at the National Institue of Fine Arts. With the support of other grants and scholarships, he took classes with Rafael Zamarripa, Miguel Vélez and Daniel Andrade as well as in the "Escuela Superior de Danza" in Chihuahua, Mexico. In Chicago, José took ballet at Boitsov Classical Ballet; modern dance at the DanceSpace; and Spanish dance with Ensemble Español's Dame Libby Komaiko and her prestigious guest dance instructors. José began to teach dance in 1978 with the Ballet Folklórico of the Mexican Cultural Center.
Matiana Medrano Jiménez was born in Matehuala, San Luis Potosí, Mexico on May 14, 1960 and moved to Chicago in 1970. She returned to Mexico to complete her education. In Matehuala she studied dance with Manuel Hernandez and Jose (Pepe) Fuentes at the Institute of Fine Arts' school of dance in San Luis Potosí. Matie returned to Chicago in 1979, taught at the Ballet Folklórico of San Roman's youth group and later joined Ballet Folklórico Alma de Mexico where José Luis taught. Matie has taken numerous dance workshops in Mexico and the United States, which have allowed a considerable expansion of the company's repertoire. Since 1987 Matie has directed the second company and in 1993, she was the proud recipient of the Viva Latina Award granted by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.
Henry A. Roa was born in Joliet Illinois on May 17, 1933. Growing up during the Depression, World War
II and the Korean Conflict years gave Henry a strong patriotism for his country, so interrupting his
education and job at Western Electric Company, he joined the Army Signal Corp and served in Okinawa. But
before he left he married Juanita Rodriguez on March 13, 1954.
He returned in 1956 and they began their life together. And he resumed school part-time. Juanita bore him two daughters, Laura and Anna, and a son Edward. Then late in life a third daughter, Nicole, was born and that is when Henry contemplated on his heritage. He began to investigate Mexican dance to teach Nicole. He searched for an instructor who could teach above average choreography. Henry and Juanita were avid ballroom dancers so he was able to judge professional dance instruction no matter the ethnicity. Henry found the instructors through his son.
In 1979 Edward was attending Illinois Institute of Technology when he asked his father to have him and Nicole dance at a LIFE (Latinos Involved in Further Education) Mexican fiesta. Henry thought it better to have a dance group instead and he found Ofelia Solano's group. Ofelia was the professional that Henry was looking for so Nicole joined her group. That led to other professionals, José Luis Ovalle and Serafí Guevara and eventually to the founding of the Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago, in 1982. Henry also finally earned a degree in that year from Elmhurst College. Four years later Henry took an early pension and began to help the dance company grow. He became its executive director.
He received several awards for this as well as for his work in the community, including awards from:
as well as others.
Henry is also associated with Cuerdas Clásicas, Inc. Sones de México Ensemble Chicago, Sociedad Cívica Mexico-Americana in Des Plaines, Asociación de Charros Cuatro Caminos, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Brighton Park Elementary LSC, The Bishop Plácido Rodríguez Auxiliary and The Padre Silva Fund. He served as bilingual tutor at Cooper Upper Grade Center and as a panelist for the Illinois Arts Council, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Arts Council.
Juanita Roa was born in Lockport, Illinois in 1932. She also experienced the Depression, WWII and Korea
years. She had wonderful parents and sisters who loved music and singing. They participated in all
civic events both American and Mexican. They helped fund and build the church chapel where she and
Henry were married. They also helped their father build two homes.
Juanita developed into a powerful singer and won every contest that she participated in for her school. She sang in a local band and might ahve been a professional singer but chose married life instead. Juanita, as a wife and mother, participated in all school, church and civic activities and served as presiden in several organizations including The Cordi-Marian Women's Auxiliary. She founded the St. Agnes of Brighton Park Guadalupana Society.
With all this experience Juanita became secretary⁄treasurer of the dance company in 1988.