Jose Cosme’s work with chambelanes all started as a side project in Guadalajara, Mexico. As a member of a military sports program, Jose was asked by village mayors and state governors to participate in their daughters’ quinceañeras almost every week. Jose became very familiar with quinceañera dance choreographies and began working with his best friend Susie to create more routines. In his 20s, Jose came to the United States, leaving the project behind.
“When I got here, I didn’t think about doing this. In the first place, there wasn’t much word about choreographing quinceañeras,” Cosme said.
As time passed, Jose reunited with his passion project when his friends in the states started asking for help in choreographing dances for quinceañeras.
In every quinceañera, there are typically two dances where the quinceañera herself is in the spotlight and provides entertainment for her guests. The two dances are a main formal dance that typically centers around the waltz genre of music and the second dance is a surprise act. The dance for the surprise act has music that is less formal and is usually a mix of genres favored by the quinceañera herself.
With these dances, the quinceañera can enlist her friends to be a part of her special day. Male dancers are known as chambelanes and females are called damas.
“The truth is, you fall in love with the work that you do,” Cosme said. “For me, this started as a hobby, but now it’s not. It’s a great commitment to ensure that the quinceañera [herself] has a good quinceañera. I put myself into the shoes of the parents and recognize that they are paying a lot and putting a great amount of effort into making sure things come out great.”
The work for Cosme began all the way back when cassette tapes were still being used to listen to music. With time passing and technology evolving, the business grew over 18 years, hosting 35 quinceañeras on average per year. He claims that the busiest year for him was the year COVID-19 hit in 2020.
“We had 55 quinceañeras that year. We were very busy at the peak of the pandemic. We were even booked on New Year’s Eve!”
The growth and success of Cosme’s chambelan business has not stopped. Through recommendations from people he’s worked with, clients continually reach out to the choreographer, asking for help with their daughters’ quinceañeras.
“It has changed my life in a way that encourages me to constantly do better, to learn more dances, be more responsible, to not settle, and to most importantly teach my boys to transmit their own visions through their work.”
Clients hire Cosme’s group of chambelanes because many teenage friends of their daughters’ are reluctant to jump at the opportunity to participate.
“Others are scared they’ll get embarrassed in front of everyone,” said Alan, one of Cosme’s chambelanes.
“I think others are timid,” said Lucas, another member of the group. “They worry too much about what other people might think of them if they mess up.”
For Cosme, to be a chambelan is all about being responsible, fully committing to the job, and most importantly, having fun in the moment. This is very evident in his current contracted dancers. As of right now, Cosme works with more than 15 boys for the quinceañeras that he is contracted for. He is already booked out for next year. Managing the events can be overwhelming, but his boys Alan, Kevin, Jose, Isaac, Jose N. and Lucas, keep him cool under pressure.
“We’re basically getting paid to have fun,” said 16-year-old Jose.
The boys’ ages range from 13 to 19 years old. They reveal that they all had interest in dancing before working with Cosme. They have either learned how to dance by themselves, through each other, or through the choreographer.
“I learned how to dance with my pillow. I would put music on and look at Tik Toks and follow the steps,” said Jose.
The group of boys already knew each other through school. If one boy was participating in a quinceañera, he would quickly reach out to the others asking them if they wanted to join. The boys were eager to have a place to learn how to dance and to express themselves creatively.
Their passion for dancing and their strong bond with each other has opened a wonderful opportunity to dance, but also to hang out together. To the boys, being a chambelan is not only about being an emotional support for the quinceañera herself, but it’s also about meeting new people and advancing their abilities to dance while still learning important life lessons along the way. The boys have learned to come out of their shells and become more social, responsible, and punctual which they say has helped them in other aspects of their lives outside of dance.
Thanks to Cosme, the boys have already begun thinking about their futures. While the boys may have dancing on the brain, they also have aspirations in life. Sixteen-year-old Lucas hopes to work in the criminal justice field and has already been taking college-level courses at his high school to get a head start on his career. Jose hopes to become an architect to design beautiful mansions. Jose N. and 19-year-old Alan hope to become engineers. In the end, they all hope to keep dancing, even if it’s just a hobby.
The boys have the support of their parents, who appreciate the huge time commitment for keeping them out of trouble. During busy months, the boys often rehearse every single day of the week.
“Our parents motivate us to become bigger,” said Jose.
Working with Cosme over the course of two years, the boys have gained great respect for their choreographer. This comes from the appreciation each has toward one another.
“In total I have like 50 chambelanes,” Cosme said. “If I ask them for a favor, they’re always there to help.”
Cosme explained that the most important thing to keep in mind when working with the boys is love. Oftentimes, the choreographer has had to take on a fatherly role for the group. By consistently checking in on the boys’ well-being, it has gone a long way towards earning their respect.
“The satisfaction comes from being told ‘thank you,’ for teaching them how to dance,” Cosme said. “It kind of makes you realize that you’re leaving behind a legacy.”
Cosme’s main objective is to bring out the best in the quinceañera and to make sure their experience in the spotlight is wonderful and unforgettable. In doing that, he has touched the hearts of many. Cosme and his dancers bring sunshine into the world of quinceañeras here in Denver.
The video below is an example of the dances, but they are not performed by Jose Cosme’s chambelanes.