Born in San Antonio, Texas, Marisa danced Flamenco at a young age but wouldn’t resume again until after graduating college. Going on three years of dancing for Alma’s Gitanas, Marisa has performed in both San Antonio and Laredo. Key performances include performing at the Laredo Little Theatre, National Dance Society conference in San Antonio, and the Mexican Expo festival in San Antonio. Outside of dance, Marisa works in the insurance and financial services industry and has a degree in Mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin.
Joanna Amaya.was born in Laredo, Texas and has been living in San Antonio, Texas for the past 8 years. She has a tremendous love for performing arts and has pursued her career in dance and cosmetology. She began dancing at the age of eighteen it has been one of her most enjoyable experiences and life changing. She graduated from Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a minor in Dance. During her studies at TAMIU, she participated in the following dance conferences: Texas Association for Physical Education Recreation Dance and the American College Dance Festival Association, She received the Valeria M.Hernandez Memorial Scholarship in the field of dance, fall 2013. She attended the AVEDA Institute of Cosmetology and has been a licensed cosmetologist since 2016 and began working for a prestigious salon. She now has her own business and enjoys spreading beauty through dance and her clients. She says “Dance is my identity, my passion, my love, and addiction. It saved me, has kept me disciplined and makes me the person I am today!”
Alejandra Gonzalez Davalos
Born and raised in Laredo, Texas. She started her fascination for Spanish dance at Texas A & M International University in 2002 where she studied under the direction of Bede Leyendecker. During this time, she traveled to numerous Texas Association Physical Health Education and Recreational Dance conferences and American College Dance Festival Association conferences in order to enhance and promote her love of Spanish dance. Alejandra has been honored with the Blanche Flores Leyendecker Scholarship. Alejandra is currently a part of Almas Gitanas Danza Española where she continues to demonstrate her love for Spanish dance. Ale serves as Vice-President for Almas Gitanas.
A graduate of Laredo State University, a part of The Texas A&M University System, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. She has been teaching high school mathematics since 1990. Additionally, she studied Spanish dance under the direction of Bede Leyendecker and has enjoyed dancing with her ever since. Elisa is married to a Spaniard, and they are proud parents of a daughter and a son. Elisa serves as Treasurer for Almas Gitanas.
Dr. Melissa P. Garcia
Dr. Melissa P. Garcia is a speech-language pathologist currently employed by Baylor University. Her passion for dance began at a young age and has continued throughout her lifetime. Post Secondary dance studies at Laredo Junior College (LJC) under the direction of Bede Leyendecker rekindled her love for dance. During her time there, she attended several dance conferences throughout the state and performed in a wide variety of venues locally, statewide and in Mexico and was a recipient of the Blanche Flores Leyendecker Scholarship. Her dedication and commitment to dance continued while attending Texas A&M-Kingsville (TAMUK) where she pursued a degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders. She was co-founder of the TAMUK Ballet Folklorico and taught dance at the Boys and Girls club of Kingsville. While pursuing a graduate degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders at the Southern Connecticut State University, she joined a local dance company affiliated with Yale University where she continued to learn about the history of dances, teach and perform ballet folklorico. Upon her return to Laredo, she has continued her commitment and zest for Flamenco and Ballet Folklorico.
Jessica Ramon-Hall was born in San Antonio but raised in Laredo, Texas. Having studied various forms of dance, she developed a love for the art form at a young age, but her passion was ignited for Spanish dance in 1996 when she began her studies under the direction of Bede Leyendecker. Professionally, Jessica initiated the dance program at L.B. Johnson High School in 2001, and choreographed for Footworks dance studio. Jessica earned her Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish Literature along with her secondary certification in English, Spanish and Dance from Texas A&M International University and her Master’s degree in English Literature from Johns Hopkins University. She also achieved ESL certification. She has recently retired after 23 years with United Independent School District.
Bede Lamar Leyendecker
Born, raised and educated in Laredo, Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Houston, where she earned both Bachelor and Master degrees. Dance is a lifelong love and Spanish dance tops her list of favorites. She has received numerous local, state and national teaching awards including LULAC Council #7 ‘Higher Education Award’ and the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance ‘Scholar Award’ and the ‘Dance Heritage Award.’ Bede serves as the Executive Director for Almas Gitanas.
Jackie Marin Perez
Born and raised in Laredo, Texas. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M International University in Education. Since the age of two, she knew she had a love for dance, especially Spanish dance. It has been a privilege and honor for her to be able to share her passion of dance with children of all ages, as an instructor in the TAMIU Young Dancers program and as a sponsor to the Starzz Dance Team at St. Peter’s Memorial School. Jackie serves as the President of Almas Gitanas.
Born and raised in Laredo, Texas. Her dance studies began as a member of the cheer squads at her school and the All-American Dance Studio. Studying various dance forms with Bede Leyendecker she discovered her love for Spanish dance and participated in numerous conferences with the American College Dance Association and Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Association. Selina graduated from Texas A&M International University earning a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. After graduation, she participated in the TAMIU Young Dancer’s program and currently is a high school Math teacher. Selina serves as the Secretary for Almas Gitanas.
Mary Theresa Dorothy Montemayor
Born, raised and educated in Laredo, Texas. She began studying Spanish dance in 2010 with Texas A&M International University’s Young Dancer Program and continues to dance with Almas Gitanas. Dorothy has taught at United Independent School District for fifteen years. Her hobbies include teaching Zumba and traveling around the state. She is married to a longtime music educator and the couple have one son, who also shows great enthusiasm for dance.
Carla Yolanda Saldaña
Carla Yolanda Saldaña was born in Mexico and moved to Texas as a teenager. She found passion in Flamenco at a young age, and has sharpened her skills under the direction of Bede Leyendecker since 2004. Carla earned a masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and is currently a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas. She has received various dance scholarships and recognitions during her education. Carla serves as historian for Alma’s Gitanas.
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