From toddler to teacher, Gonzalez lives a life of dance


Caroline Attmore

Observing her students practice, Gonzelaz keeps her dancing career alive by passing her knowledge to the next generation.

With the music in her ears, and her eyes on their flowing feet, the little girl sat on the sidelines as her aunt practiced and performed dance routines. Now, more than 20 years later, that little girl is teaching and inspiring others in their blossoming dance careers as Maria Gonzalez helps lead the school’s drill and dance classes.

“My dance journey started when I was about 2 or 3 years old. My aunt used to take me with her to go watch the dance group that she was with for her church,” Gonzalez said. “It was a ballet forcororica, The Mexican skirt dancing, so instead of playing with the other little kids I would just sit and I would watch, and I would learn all of the dances  on my own instead of playing with the other kids.”

Gonzalez has danced all her life and she has always admired the art form. No matter what the other kids her age were doing, she would always come back to dance.

provided by Maria Gonzalez
Holding up a childhood picture after her graduation from Texas Women’s University, assistant drill team director Maria Gonzalez has an extensive background in dance that brought her to where she is today.

“She would sit by the music box and just watched the practice,” Gonzalez’s aunt Marina Martinez said. “We had a group of girls ages 8 to 11 that also practice. I had no idea she wanted to dance because she only watched.”

However, Gonzalez remembers the moment she realized that this is what she wants to do.

“Eventually as my aunt and her friends would go perform they would need time to get changed,” Gonzalez said. “They would just throw me out there like ‘okay you’re going to go do this little solo by yourself so that we have time to change,’ and that’s when it really got started.”  

Maybe it was because she didn’t have a choice, or maybe it was part of her genetic heritage. Either way, in the eyes of her aunt, Gonzalez was a natural and always eager to perform.

“Her grandmother made her a dancing dress just like the one the older girls used for their performance,” Martinez said. “The day we went to perform at the Temple Inland in Diboll multi-cultural event I dressed her up (makeup and hair). When it was time for our performance we did our first dance and then she came to me and was pulling on my dress. I asked her what she needed and she asked me when was she dancing, I told she was not dancing and she responded that she was ready. At that time our instructor asked me what was wrong and I told her that she was saying she was ready to dance. The instructor said you know what, we can let her do a dance while we change for our next performance.”

Never having danced in front of a audience, Gonzalez was confident and ready.

“I responded that she had never dance and she responded that it would be ok because she was little. She can just model her dress and do some turns. I walked her to the center of the stage and when I walked away the audience were clapping. My instructor play the song that older girls dance “Las Alazanas,” Martinez said. “The music started and to our surprise she new the choreography and the steps better than the older girls. We were all in shock and the audience just loved her performance.”

That was the start of a passion for dance that influenced her choices in high school and college.

“I stuck with that for a very long time, through part of high school,” Gonzalez said. “I started taking studio dance classes I was seven and I started with jazz, tap, and ballet. I joined the competitive hip hop team and then in high school I join the drill team and all the dance classes there and the next thing I knew I was in college.”

Attending Kilgore College, it wasn’t long before she became a part of one of the most acclaimed drill teams in the nation.

provided by Maria Gonzalez
Posing in her Kilgore College Rangerettes uniform, Maria Gonzalez participated in world’s best-known collegiate drill teams before transferring to Texas Women’s University.

“I was a part of the Kilgore College Rangerettes which is like the first drill team ever,” Gonzalez said. “So the drill team that we have on campus is because of the rangerettes. they’re just a collegiate level dance team and they perform at the highest level. And then after that I transferred to Texas Woman’s and I finished my degree in dance educations.”

From there, she eventually made her way to campus as a dance teacher.

“She is really passionate about dance because she has learned it for many years,” freshman Nitya Sripati said. “And she really wants to teach future generations the key of dance.”

However, that doesn’t mean she is done with dancing herself as Gonzalez is searching for places to perform.

“I don’t perform a lot these days and it makes me really sad. I’m exploring my options right now two kind of see what’s available for people with a schedule,” she said. “It’s harder to perform because a lot of it is rehearsal in the middle of the day on a Tuesday and I’m like ‘well I teach dance classes, I work.’ So I am exploring my options because it is something I miss.”