Dancing is a big part of the quinceañera celebration. There’s the surprise dance, performed by the guest of honor with her court of chambelanes (boys) and damas (girls). Then there’s the “vals,” another dance she performs with her court. And finally, the father-daughter dance. That’s the big moment, when the transition of the quinceañera from girl to woman is formally recognized. The father removes his daughter’s flat shoes, symbolizing childhood, changing them out for the high heels that mean she’s all grown up.
Ariza (Iza) Juarez’s quinceañera was held at Cascade Gardens in Yakima on a beautiful day last August. She has a huge family and the outdoor venue had plenty of room for everyone, says her mom Lupita. “My grandma and grandpa had 18 children together so you can imagine how many aunts, uncles and cousins we have in our family!” Iza is Lupita and Richard Juarez’s only daughter, and on top of that, Lupita says “I never had one of my own and did not have a big wedding either, so since the day she was born, I knew that when the day came to have her quinceañera it was going to be very memorable.” More than 400 people attended.
Iza had a huge court as well. Usually, there are seven damas and seven chambelanes, so with the quinceañera it adds up to 15. But she has so many friends they couldn’t narrow it down and went with 14 each. Lupita and Iza had to coordinate the schedules of 28 kids. “That was a mission in itself because they all have sports, and to get practices together for the dances — Omigosh! It was pretty stressful at times but it all came out beautiful in the end,” says Lupita.
Iza has been playing soccer since she was 3 years old, which is why she chose a soccer theme for her quince. She’s an outside mid-fielder who hopes to get a soccer scholarship for college, and her dad’s been there all along, coaching and supporting her. They have a unique bond, explains Lupita. “She has always been daddy’s girl and her and her dad have a very special relationship. Her dad is very silly and they are always playing around.”
Because half of the guests spoke only Spanish, they decided to have two songs with Spanish lyrics, and two in English. For the slow music, Iza and her dad decided on “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts. Richard says “the song describes everything I do wish for my daughter ... dancing the song with her was the most emotional moment for me because I realized she is truly becoming a young lady.” They also danced to the Spanish song, “No Crezcas Mas” by Tercer Cielo — which means “Don’t Grow Anymore.” That’s when Richard removed his daughter’s Converse shoes and everyone started crying. Iza says her dad helped her keep it together. “My dad and I are both really goofy, so as we were dancing the slow song he would crack jokes the whole time so I couldn’t cry. It was more joyful.”
The guests wiped away their tears and started laughing as the two launched into the fast numbers. They chose the Macarena song and mixed it up with “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar. “They are very fun songs and of course they had to do some head shaking and add some dabs (a dance move where you bow your head into your elbow, representing pride,) into their choreography,” Lupita remembers.
But even with all that practice, things weren’t perfect, grins Iza. “During the faster songs there was a point where we were doing a little shimmy type of thing, like if I would shimmy forward, he’d go back, and if he’d shimmy forward I’d go back, but he messed up and every time I’d go forward he’d go the same way as me and I’m like ‘What are you doing!’ But we played it off and kept going.”
It was a momentous day, filled with joy and love; and the bittersweet realization that adulthood, with all its decisions and responsibilities, is right around the corner. Iza swore she wouldn’t cry during her speech. “I kept telling myself ‘I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry.’ And it kind of just hit me, I started bawling so I had to kind of step back a little bit, and just breathe. It ended up being fine.”
After a year and a half of preparation, and a lifetime of anticipation, the party was over. Iza shakes her head and laughs. “The whole night went by too fast. So by the end of the night I’m like — that’s it? All these months and months of planning for this one night.” Lupita agrees. “All these years that I’ve dreamt of this day and it felt like you just opened up your eyes and closed them and that was it. It was done.”
“My daughter teases me at times because she says that in a way, I lived my quinceañera dream in hers. Maybe I did, but I’ll tell you what, I know that every single thing on this special day was planned with a lot of thought and love.” She’s already planning for Iza to have a big wedding, with a groom who’s still unknown.