LOS ANGELES - They come from all over Southern California and meet up at a gym in Lincoln Heights almost every Saturday for one purpose: to dress up and dance like the ancient Aztecs.
Rosie Dominguez of Alhambra is one such member of the Xipetotec Aztec Dance Group. She has been giving her time and skills to the organization for many years now.
"I started dancing about 30 years ago," Dominguez said. "I've been with this group since it started in 1983. I do this because of my Mexican heritage. This was a way to become more familiar with my indigenous roots."
Dominguez said in addition to practice, the 50-member group performs three to five times a month at a variety of different functions.
She added you don't need a doctorate in Aztec dancing to join.
"That's what's wonderful about the group," Dominguez said. "You don't have to be a certain height or weight or anything. You just get to dance."
In addition, she said there is more to it than just dancing.
"It's not just dancing," she said. "It's a very spiritual event. The group is open to anyone who wants to come and learn."
Virginia Carmelo founded the group with her husband in the early 1980s.
"It was something I was able to do," Carmelo said. "My teacher came from Mexico. I came to know him and was enthralled with the dance and wanted to learn it.
Carmelo added she now has in the group some multi-generational families as people have stayed dancing with her for many decades.
Carmelo also said Dominguez has been a faithful member of the group.
"She is a long-standing member, almost from the beginning," Carmelo said of Dominguez. "She's a great support of the tradition and has integrated into it."
In addition, Carmelo agreed with Dominguez that you need not have all the dancing talent and knowledge in the world to come dance with them - or partake in other activities.
"Even if you stop dancing, you can participate in other ways, such as singing," Carmelo said. "It's familial based."
(Shel Segal can be reached at