There is something special when a lifelong passion and profession meet and blossom into a career. It’s even more powerful when others are uplifted and the community is enriched through that career.
For Alma Dolores Xibille, owner of the Alma Dolores International Dance Centre located on State Route 92 in Sierra Vista, both have come true. This year marks Xibille’s 50th anniversary of teaching dance to students of all ages, backgrounds and communities across the Cochise County and Sonora regions.
“That was my desire just to teach people, to give them what I had. To give them my all,” Xibille said.
Xibille’s passion for dance was fostered at a young age by her parents, who both loved the art form. Dance as a form of expression holds a special place in Xibille’s heart because it allowed her to overcome her childhood shyness.
“I loved that I could express my feelings,” she said. “So that year I knew, that was my craft, that was my calling ... I knew it right away, that’s what I wanted to do.”
As Xibille continued to improve, her teacher advised her parents to seek more training.
“I was very fortunate to have very supportive parents,” Xibille said. “So when my dance teacher told them that it would be very good if I expand(ed) my dance education and learn other styles, they did not hesitate. They took me to different places to learn the different styles of dance with many teachers, the best at the (time).”
By the age of 13, Xibille started assisting her teacher in the classroom, helping to teach the younger dancers at the studio proper technique, discipline and the joy of the art from.
“After I worked for a couple of years ... I felt like ‘OK, now what do I do with all this knowledge, what do I do with this training?,’ she said. “My desire was to share it with other students, other people that were not as fortunate as I was.”
In 1970, Xibille, then 15, opened her first dance studio in Agua Prieta, Sonora. Two years later she graduated from the Palafox Dance Institute with a degree in Dance Choreographing and Teaching Techniques.
Alyxis Trujillo, a former student of Xibille’s at her Agua Prieta studio, has known Xibille for 27 years. She recalls having Xibille as a teacher.
“She was always so kind and encouraging,” Trujillo said. “She is the nicest lady ever, even when she was telling us to get on our places.”
Xibille continued to manage and teach at her Agua Prieta studio throughout her teen years and continued while attending college. She graduated from Cochise College in 1976 with a degree in Fine Arts and moved to Tucson to attend Pima Community College. While in the Tucson area, Xibille taught dance classes for the Parks and Recreation Department and was an assistant folklórico instructor to Angel Hernandez at Pima Community College from 1978-79.
In 1980, Xibille returned to Mexico and opened a second dance studio in Cananea. Xibille returned to the US in 1997 and opened her third dance studio, ADIDC, in Sierra Vista in 1998. Xibille noted that for a period of time she managed all three studios at the same time, conversing with her staff via radio and telephone while off site.
Trujillo, noting how Xibille was with the three studios, says the instructor continues to be “innovative” when conflicts and problems arise.
“She’s just a true leader, she’s creative and innovative. I just admire her so much. Having her as a leader, it felt good. You don’t worry when you’re with her. You knew that we were safe and would succeed.”
Marithza Diaz, who worked as a receptionist and dance teacher at Xibille’s Agua Prieta studio, said she learned more than just dance steps from Xibille. Diaz, who started working for Xibille at 17, says she learned many valuable lessons on critical thinking, organization and determination.
“She was there all the time for me to teach me about dance, costumes, recitals organization, and life,” Diaz says. She (taught) me not to wait for somebody else to solve my problems or (to) say ‘I can’t do this.’ ”
Eventually, Xibille closed her two studios in Mexico and devoted her attention to ADIDC. The ADIDC studio offers classes for people of all ages with a wide variety of dance instruction, from classical ballet/pointe, tap, jazz, hip-hop, Hawaiian, lyrical/modern, bellydance, Irish step, folklórico, ballroom, Polynesian and flamenco. The studio also offers classes in aerial silks and gymnastics.
Xibille and her ADIDC dancers perform at numerous events around Cochise County. Tanya Biami, the Department Chair of Fine Arts and Humanities at Cochise College, says, “Alma has always been enthusiastic and accommodating when the Cultural Diversity Committee asked her to send dancers to the college for annual events, such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Dia de los Muertos.”
In 50 years of teaching, Xibille has gained an admirable reputation for empowering her students of all ages and enriching the community through the art of dance. Biami says Xibille has several awards for her contributions to Cochise County.
Alma’s dancers perform at several local events, such as Sierra Vista’s Fourth of July festivals, the Forgach House variety shows, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, the University of Arizona South’s Dancing Under the Stars benefit show and others.
In 2005, she was awarded the city’s Arts and Humanities Commission’s Mayor’s Arts and Humanities Awards in the individual artist category, and in 2008 the studio received the Mayor’s Arts and Humanities Award in the arts organization category. These awards show how grateful the community is for Alma’s contributions, Biami said.
Biami admires Xibille’s passion for sharing her knowledge and uniting the community through her performances. “(As) a former student at Alma’s studio, I admire her dedication to dance as an art form. Her focus on cultural dances reminds us that no matter how different we are culturally, we can celebrate diversity and communicate through dance, the universal language,” she said.
When asked about her motivation, Xibille says she hopes to bring people of all backgrounds together through the love of dancing and empower them to use their training to make a living.
“Because if you really like it, what could be better than making a living doing what you love,” she said, mentioning that another motivating factor is seeing her students, ranging from youth to seniors, learning to express themselves through the art of dance is “priceless.”
Many of Xibille’s former students have continued to pursue careers as dancers and entrepreneurs. When asked what advice she would give to the next generation of dancers and business owners, Xibille said, “As a dancer, be grateful that you can do what you love, because that is what will keep you going in hard times. As a business owner, director and entrepreneur, start from the bottom, one step at a time. Enjoy all your successes, meeting your goals, and also learn from your mistakes and never give up.”