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Arts in Milwaukee

A Public Service Of Milwaukee Artist Resource Network

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  • “Mexica Chimalli #1”Mexica Chimalli #1

    Aztec/Mexica feather art

Roberto Franco

artist bio

Through his parents, Roberto Franco was initiated into one of Mexico’s most famous Aztec groups, Tlatoani Cuahetemotzin. At the time, this Mexico City-based group was led by the Jefe (Chief) Felipe Aranda, one of the most respected leaders of a contemporary native Aztec group. Roberto started dancing and performing as a young boy in 1975. Cheif Aranda spent hours mentoring him in the philosophy, history and techniques of Aztec dance and drum, preparing Roberto to be a future leader in the native Aztec cultural structure. Shortly after Roberto mastered the complexities of traditional Aztec dance and drum at age fourteen, he was given the title Capitan of Dance and placed in charge of teaching dances to the group and organizing dancers for major Aztec ceremonies throughout Mexico such as Foundation of Tenochtitlan, Zemanauak Tlamachtiloyan and Izcatioan Guerro. During this time Roberto received a continuous stream of invitations to perform throughout the many states of Mexico at universities, casas de cultura, and special government-sponsored events.
In 1993, Roberto was selected to dance in front of the United Nations during a conference on human rights in Mexico City. The following year, he was invited to participate in the opening ceremonies for the United Nations’ 50th anniversary celebration in Geneva, Switzerland. After the ceremony, Roberto toured Europe and performed at venues in Germany, Spain, Croatia, France, and Italy.
In 1999, Roberto moved to the United States to teach, choreograph, and perform Aztec dances and drumming for the Ballet Folklorico Mexico de Los Hermanos Avila, based in Madison, Wisconsin. During this time, Roberto was able to visit and perform in nearly every state in the continental U.S. and also spent two weeks in Shanghai, China, performing at a government-sponsored festival know as the Exotic Shows of Various Euramerica Performing Arts. In 2005, Roberto moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he co-founded and directed the Ballet Folklorico Nacional Mexica, which has since evolved into the Omeyocan Dance Company, owned and directed by the Franco Brothers.
In 2008, Roberto was invited to meet and perform for then-presidential-candidate Barak Obama and Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. In 2009, his group, the Omeyocan Dance Company, was the opening act for the wildly popular Mexican rock group, El Tri, at their tour stops in Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Soon after, Roberto was invited to perform with the Aztec group Ollin Yoliztli Calmecac at the Library of Congress and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. to promote, teach and archive the Aztec culture.
Due to his knowledge of Aztec dance, language and culture, Roberto is a sought-after expert for print, radio and television news, as well as video documentaries, and he has granted scores of interviews across Mexico, the United States and Europe. He regularly attends native Aztec ceremonies in the United States and Mexico, and wherever he goes he shares his knowledge with others. On a day-to-day basis, Roberto channels his energy into teaching ancient Aztec dancing and drumming to school children, performing for audiences and directing his group, the Omeyocan Dance Company. Roberto is also a three time winner of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant sponsored by the Wisconsin Arts Board which allows him to work one-on-one with apprentices, providing intensive Mexica/Aztec instruction. Through these efforts, he strives to do his part in our modern society to keep these ancient Aztec traditions alive now and into the future.

artist statement

Roberto Franco and his brother Alejandro Franco created the Omeyacan Dance Company inorder to celebrate Mexico’s colorful cultural history and to share it with others. Through performances that feature authentic dances, costumes, and music, they entertain and educate audiences of all ages and cultures. They seek to enrich both the audience and dancers alike with appreciation and an enhanced cultural awareness of Mexico‘s storied past and vivid traditions.

proficiencies