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Jorge Rivas-Raygoza

Cal State LA graduate, Charmaine Chui
Graduating Cal State LA student inspires youth through dance
Highland Park resident to earn a bachelor’s degree in theatre

College of Arts and Letters

College of Arts and Letters

Jorge Rivas-Raygoza did not dance for about four years. 

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles from Mexico in the late 1990s, a teenaged Rivas-Raygoza tried to join a folklórico dance group only to be told he was not welcome. 

“They made fun of me; they said boys don’t dance,” recalled Rivas-Raygoza, who first fell in love with dancing as a five-year-old participating in his Mexican hometown’s celebration of the Virgen de Guadalupe. 

It was not until he transferred in the 10th grade to Lincoln High School and joined the school’s folklórico dance class that his passion for the artform was rekindled. Rivas-Raygoza has not stopped expressing himself through dance—and teaching—since then. 

Rivas-Raygoza will be part of Cal State LA’s 2024 graduating class, earning his Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from the College of Arts and Letters. He was already a well-established professional dancer before enrolling at the university. 

He has worked with the LA Opera in the Barber of Seville (2015), Carmen (2017), and El Gato Montes (2019). He has also performed with various singers and celebrities, as well as in music videos and television shows. His credits include participation with Angeles Ochoa, Los Rieleros Del Norte, and La Santa Cecilia, along with an appearance at the Academy Awards presentation for Best Animated Film for Pixar’s Coco

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment thus far is the founding of Ballet Bravo in 2014. The dance company merges ballet and folklórico to encourage youth to express their artistry, creativity, and appreciation of their cultural heritage. And yes, Ballet Bravo—which operates under Rivas-Raygoza’s nonprofit organization Youth Culture Moves the World—welcomes both boys and girls of all ethnicities to participate. 

“There are so many things to love about dance,” Rivas-Raygoza said. “It improves mental health. We all come with different baggage, and it affects who we are mentally. Dance is therapy. It builds self-esteem and keeps you away from negative influences.” 

Rivas-Raygoza speaks from experience. Dance became his saving grace after he arrived in Los Angeles from a small town in the state of Zacatecas in Mexico. He is a DACA recipient, having traveled north with his mother and some of his nine siblings, unaware that none of them carried immigration papers. 

Rivas-Raygoza struggled to integrate into his new surroundings, and even shunned the idea of learning English. 

“My mind was so busy and shocked,” he said. “I went from a school that had fewer than 100 people to one with nearly 500. People made fun of [me and my friends], we were outsiders. We just spoke in gibberish, and we decided we’re just going to join the fun.” 

The folklórico class at Lincoln High School gave him a purpose, and even encouraged him to learn English. 

“Dance allowed me to find myself,” Rivas-Raygoza said. 

It is a lesson he hopes to impart on his young students at Ballet Bravo. In its 10-year existence, Rivas-Raygoza estimates that 500 youth have gone through the program. 

“It’s very rewarding,” he said, “for the dancers to see the audience identify with what they’re presenting. It brings out our culture, who we are as a people.” 

Rivas-Raygoza approached his academic career with the same verve that he employs for teaching. 

“Jorge is an outstanding student in all regards,” said Theatre and Dance Professor Tanya Kane-Parry. “He is endlessly curious, diligent in his work ethic regarding research, preparation, presentation. He commits fully to every in-class activity and discussion, making important contributions to the ethos of the classroom environment.” 

Rivas-Raygoza, a Highland Park resident, is graduating with a 3.6 GPA. He pursued his undergraduate degree partly to inspire his students. 

“I’m a teacher,” he said. “I need to raise the bar, raise the expectations for my students.”

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

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