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If you are in town… As background to the December 12, Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle, blogger buddy Chris (of Oaxaca-The Year After fame) and I are again doing a presentation at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  It will be on Tuesday, December 4 at 5:00 PM.  And, new this year:  There will be very special guests!

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From the library’s description of the talk, “The Danza de la Pluma, with its giant feathered headdresses, is one of the most famous dances performed in Oaxaca and is particularly special in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle.  The dance, dancers, and village all have rich stories.  Come join Chris Stowens and Shannon Sheppard, who have spent several years observing and learning about this amazing culture, for a presentation filled with stories, photos and video.”

Alas, it’s not free.  Besides memberships, presentations like this are what keeps the library afloat.  The cost is 90 pesos for OLL members and 130 pesos for non-members.  Reservations can be made using the library’s Online Store.  Hope to see you on Tuesday!

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Below is the Guelaguetza 2018 calendar of the main events.  For details of these and other “Julio, mes de la Guelaguetza” (July, month of the Guelaguetza) activities in and around the valley of Oaxaca, click HERE.

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The list of delegations by date, time, and the dance they will be performing follows.  By the way, a note about the dancers:  Seeing it as an honor, they come to perform at their own expense.  However, one way to give back, at least to the artisans of their communities, is to do your shopping at the Expo Feria Artesanal (listed above).

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And, bookmark THIS SITE and/or CORTV for live (en vivo) links to each performance.

(ps)  For those in town:  People keep asking me what the route will be for the two Saturday Desfiles de Delegaciones — which over the past several years keeps changing.  Unfortunately, I don’t know and the only answer I get is the tourist kiosk reps pointing to the Calendario de Eventos Principales  (top of page).  If I find out anything more substantive, I will try to post before Saturday.

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All is quiet now, but for the last few days (and nights!) there has been no solitude for Soledad, or her neighbors (of which I am one).  For several days leading up to December 18, the feast day of the Queen of Oaxaca, La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad (Virgin of Solitude), Oaxaca has been celebrating.  For those unaware of this virgencita, Soledad is adored and venerated in a manner similar to the Virgin of Guadalupe and is carried through the streets of Oaxaca (both city and state) during many religious celebrations.

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

She resides in the church dedicated to her, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.  Designed by Father Fernando Méndez, construction began in 1682, it was sanctioned by the Viceroy Tomas Aquino Manrique de la Cerda, and consecrated in 1690 by Bishop Isidro Siraña y Cuenca.

Castillo spelling out, “Viva La Virgen de la Soledad” (Long live the Virgin of Solitude) and “Nuestra Senora de Oaxaca” (Our Lady of Oaxaca).

Being that this is Mexico and Catholicism is tempered (enriched) with indigenous practice, the night of December 17, after religious rites and rituals were performed at said Basilica, there were fireworks in the church atrium, including toritos and a castillo, in honor of La Reina de Oaxaca.  Despite the late hour, I managed to leave the comfort of my rooftop and head over to the Plaza de la Danza to watch — and they were spectacular, as always.

Many of the faithful spent the night in the Basilica’s atrium.

Alas, I didn’t have any energy left to stay and hear the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca) Tuna band serenade Soledad with a concert inside the Basilica at midnight.  Silly me!  I was dozing off to sleep at midnight when the Basilica’s bells began chiming furiously and cohetes (rockets) sounded and I woke with a start.  Next year, I’m staying up!

Prayers before the La Virgen de la Soledad.

Sleep finally returned, only to be interrupted about 4:15 AM with more cohetes and a band and then again around 6:30 AM.  Needless to say, I gave up on sleep and got up.  All during the night La Virgen was not alone.  The faithful, coming from near and far, spent the night in the atrium of the church, food stalls set up on the stairs leading down to the church fed one and all, and live music entertained her all night long.

The ever-present vendors selling flowers to the faithful.

Like most, her story has several versions.  According to one legend, in 1620 a mule train bound for Guatemala camped outside the city of Oaxaca, discovered an extra mule which did not belong to anyone in the group.  The mule refused to move and when prodded rolled over and died.  When the pack it carried was opened, it was found to contain the statue of La Virgen de la Soledad. Taking this as a sign from heaven, the inhabitants built a shrine, later a church, and finally the imposing Basilica.

Food vendors lined the stairs down to the Basilica’s atrium.

In another story, a muleteer from Veracruz, en route to Guatemala, noticed he had one too many mules in his pack upon his arrival in Oaxaca.  Outside the San Sebastian hermitage, the mule collapsed under the burden it was carrying.  All attempts by the muleteer to get it back on its feet were futile; to avoid punishment, he notified the authorities.  When he lifted the load off the mule, it got up but then immediate died.  The burden was inspected and an image of the Virgin, accompanied by Christ, along with a sign that said, “The Virgin by the Cross.”  Faced with this momentous event, Bishop Bartolome Bohorquez ordered a sanctuary to be built in honor of the divinity.

La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad inside the Basilica wearing her gold, diamond, and pearl encrusted vestments.

Still another legend:  a heavily laden burro of mysterious origin appeared outside of town in 1534, fell to the ground, spilling its load next to a rock (still on-site) containing the beautifully carved Virgin (thought to be carved in Guatemala or the Philippines) and a chapel was built on the spot.  However, apparently there was an adobe shrine to the Virgin of Solitude atop Cerro Fortín as early as 1532 — and the rock may have even been moved from the mountain in 1617 to the current site (immediately to the right as you enter the Basilica).

La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad (body double) under the tree in the atrium of the Basilica — wearing the traveling attire.

Her vestments are encrusted with pearls and 600 diamonds — and she wears a 4-lb gold crown.  As all that bling is quite heavy and valuable, she has a body double who wears a velvet mantle and crown that aren’t quite so ostentatious.  It is she who is carried through the streets during processions and has been residing in the church atrium during the festivities in her honor.

All was not completely serious yesterday at the Basilica — there was also entertainment.  In the late afternoon, Soledad was treated to a command performance by the Cuadrilla de Mascaritas from Asunción Nochixtlán, in the Mixteca.  I had never seen nor heard of this dance before.  According to this article (in Spanish), in 1865, a year after the defeat of the Franco-Austrian army at Las Tres Cruces (between Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán and Asunción Nochixtlán) by the joint forces of the Mixtecs and General Porfirio Diáz, Mixtecos commemorated the victory with the mascaritas dance, which ridiculed the supposedly invincible enemy.  I learn something new every day!

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Yesterday, after missing the Fiesta de la Natividad because I was in the middle of my 6-week cross-country sojourn in el norte, I managed (courtesy of blogger buddy Chris and his trusty VW Jetta) to make it out to Teotitlán del Valle for the last day of the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario and performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

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Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma)

The dance is day-long and recreates the Spanish Conquest from the Zapotec point of view.

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Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche)

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Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez (Doña Marina)

Miracle of miracles, the rain held off, the clouds parted, and the sun made a much welcome appearance.

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Foreground:  Marcos Vicente Gutiérrez (Capitán 1 ro.)

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Foreground:  Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (Vasallo 8vo.)

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As we approached the atrium of the Templo Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, the father of one of the Danzantes explained a venue change — due to some (hopefully) minimal earthquake damage to one of the bell towers of the church, the Danza de la Pluma was moved next door to the plaza in front of the municipal building.

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Juan Bautista Ruiz (Subalterno)

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Florentino Martínez Ruiz (Subalterno) and Señor Inocencio

A heartfelt muchisimas gracias to the people of Teotitlán del Valle, many of whom I am so lucky and grateful to call friends.  The warm welcome I received was such an incredible tonic to the grey days we have been experiencing in Oaxaca.

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To watch last week’s Desfile de Delegaciones (Parade of Delegations), Donají…La Leyenda, and both the morning and evening Guelaguetza performances at the Auditorio Guelaguetza on Cerro del Fortín:  http://www.viveoaxaca.org/2017/07/EnVivo2017.html.

This week, the same link should be live streaming tonight’s Desfile, tomorrow night’s Donají, and both Guelaguetza performances on Monday.  If not, check the CORTV TV en Vivo link:  http://www.cortv.oaxaca.gob.mx/tv-en-vivo/.

July 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM – Desfile de Delegaciones

July 23, 2017 at 8:00 PM – Donají… La Leyenda

July 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM – Guelaguetza 2017 morning performance

July 24, 2017 at 5:00 PM – Guelaguetza 2017 evening performance

(Times given are USA Central Daylight Savings Time)

This week’s list of delegations:

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July 24 evening

¡Desfruta!  (Enjoy!)

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The Guelaguetza 2017 delegations were announced late this morning.  While there will be four presentations of the Danza de la Pluma, this year Teotitlán del Valle will not be one of them and I’m disappointed —  this group of danzantes de promesa are SO good, they were such a hit last year, and I don’t know how much more “traditional” you can get.  In addition, social media tweets and comments in Oaxaca are flying fast and furious regarding the absence of Santiago Pinotepa Nacional and Juchitán de Zaragoza.  However, the good news is that there are some new groups this year, including Santiago Niltepec, Santo Domingo Chihuitán, Santa Catarina Ticua, and Santa María Huatulco — and their supporters are thrilled.

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Reserved seat tickets have been sold out for weeks.  However, if you don’t mind standing in line for hours, tickets for the “free” sections in the upper level of the Guelaguetza Auditorium are available before each of the four performances.  In addition, it will, no doubt, be shown on local TV and live-streamed on the internet.  I will post the link, when it becomes available.

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As regular readers know, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the people and cultural traditions of the Zapotec village, Teotitlán del Valle.  Blogger buddy Chris and I go out there often, especially for their major festivals where the Danza de la Pluma is performed.  Earlier this month, a new group of danzantes de promesa assumed the sacred 3-year commitment to perform the Danza de la Pluma and, for the first time in recent memory, they were selected to dance in this year’s official Guelaguetza.  As you can see from the Vive Oaxaca video below, their 17-minute performance Monday evening was spectacular!

¡Felicidades! to the band, Los Reformistas, led by Maestro Antonio Servando Bautista González; to the breathtaking dancing of Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma), who was front and center and flawless during the entire performance; and to all the Danzantes, who impressively executed the complicated and visually stunning choreography of Maestro Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez.  While I may only be a (albeit, frequent) visitor to Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly proud of the dancers and the way they represented their strong, vibrant, and historic community.

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The program of delegations for Guelaguetza 2016 is out and, according to all reports, the show will go on!  And, at long last, this year the Danzantes de Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle have been invited to perform.  It was the talk of the village this past weekend; the pride in their history and traditions and in this new group of dancers was palpable.

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As you can see above, they will be performing on Monday evening, July 25.  Though I won’t be there in person, I will be rushing home from the Guelaguetza celebration in Reyes Etla to watch the live TV broadcast.  Hopefully, as in past years, both the morning and evening performances on both Mondays will be live-streamed.  I will post the link, once I know.

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To whet your appetite, here is my short video of the Guelaguetza 2014 performance I attended at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro del Fortín.

If this tempts you to come, please do!  Hotels have experienced a 32% cancellation rate, so you should have no trouble reserving a room.  And, the restaurants and artisans could really use your support.  While there are only a few reserved seats available through Ticketmaster at the performances up on Cerro del Fortín, local communities in the valley host their own Guelaguezas that are small, free, and provide an up-close and personal view.  In addition, the delegations dance their way through the streets of Oaxaca on the two Saturdays prior the performances, there are artisan ferias and food festivals in the city and surrounding villages to experience and enjoy.

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To watch or listen to this year’s Guelaguetza performances live from Cerro Fortín today (July 20), and next Monday (July 27), at 10 AM and 5 PM (Central Daylight Time):  http://www.viveoaxaca.org/2015/07/Guelaguetza2015EnVivo.html

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Enjoy!

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Storm clouds were gathering on Tuesday afternoon, as we drove out to Teotitlán del Valle for this year’s first performance of the Danza de la Pluma.  However, the clouds were chased away and the plaza in front of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Jesucristo was bathed and blessed with the light and shadows of the golden hour.

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(ps)  For a Moctezuma eye view of the dance, check out Chris’s Moctezuma Cam post.

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Last year, wearing the whitest of white huipiles, skirts, shirts, and pants, the delegation from San Melchor Betaza, in the Sierra Norte Region of Oaxaca, danced the sones and jarabes from their community.

IMG_4694IMG_4695IMG_4696I don’t know how the turkey felt as he took center stage when Ocotlán de Morelos, from the Valles Centrales Region, performed La Llevada del Guajolote, a dance dating to the 19th century.

IMG_4802IMG_4805 IMG_4803The dances by the delegation from San Andrés Huaxpaltepec, from the Costa Region, offered the action of the Fandango de Cajón and the grace of the Mayordomía with women wearing stark white mandiles (shawls) and caracol dyed purple pozahuancos (wrap skirts).

IMG_4817IMG_4828IMG_4845As the first few notes of the Canción Mixteca were played, the audience rose and, as one, began waving their hats and singing the beloved song of the Mixteca Region.  With the audience warmed up, the gals from Huajuapan de León began dancing the Jarabe Mixteco — twirling and tempting the guys with their flirty skirts.

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IMG_4869IMG_4877IMG_4880Click HERE for last Monday’s part 1.  Stay tuned for more next Monday, as the countdown to this year’s Guelaguetza festivities continues.

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Last Sunday, Oaxaca bid adiós to the 10º Nacional Festival de Danzón, the stately dance from Cuba that has captivated Oaxaca.  Alas, I only managed to catch the very end.  But, as always, I was charmed by the formality and style and intensity and joy — a tradition kept alive by those in their latter years…

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… and by the young.

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Several well-known danzones were composed Amador Pérez Dimas from Villa de Zaachila, ten miles southwest of Oaxaca city.

For a taste of danzón, here is brief snippet from the close of the festival.  By the way, the band is Banda Santa Cecilia from Teotitlán del Valle, a band we will be hearing several times next week during the the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

If you are in Oaxaca, you can experience Danzón for yourself on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM, either under the laurels on the Zócalo or on the Alcalá near Santo Domingo, depending on the state of the Zócalo — occupied or not occupied.

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As a background to the December 12, Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle, mañana (Dec. 10, 2014) at 5:00 PM at the Oaxaca Lending Library, Chris (of Oaxaca-The Year After fame) and I are doing a presentation about the Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle.

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From the library’s description of the talk, “The Danza de la Pluma or Dance of the Conquistadors is one of the most famous dances performed in Oaxaca.  Join Shannon and Chris for a presentation filled with photos and video of their many times observing and chronicling this beautiful dance.”

Alas, it’s not free.  Besides memberships, presentations like this are what keeps the library afloat.  The cost is 70 pesos for OLL members and 100 pesos for non-members.  Hope to see you there!

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Along with blogger buddy Chris, I’ve been immersed in putting together a presentation for the Oaxaca Lending Library on the Danza de la Pluma, as it’s performed in Teotitlán del Valle.  On the superficial level, the Danza relates the story of the Conquest.  But, as is the genius of art, it reaches into our hearts and souls and explores and communicates the truths we feel.

And so, this brief video from classmates of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students touched me deeply.

The ballet needs to tell its own story in such a way it can be received without having to be translated into language.  –Twyla Tharp

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So much to see and do, so little time to process photos and post — should all our problems be so enjoyable!  However, before tonight’s Lila Downs concert, tomorrow’s Desfile de Delagaciones (parade of delegations), and Monday’s Guelaguetza in Etla (and that’s only a few of the activities on the dance card), a glimpse from the beginning of Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance.

Diosa Centéotl, Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia began the presentation of Lunes del Cerro (aka, la Guelaguetza).

Diosa Centéotl,  Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia

As tradition dictates, she was followed by the convite (procession) of Chinas Oaxaqueñas with their band, monos, and banners.

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They filled the stage, dancing the Jarabe del Valle to the cheering crowd.

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It was a balmy evening, the view was spectacular, fourteen more delegations danced their way into the night, and a dazzling display of fireworks exploded above the open-air auditorium to conclude the show.

And, they do it all again this coming Monday — hopefully, the kinks will be worked out for the live streaming, so no matter where you are, you can watch and enjoy the morning and/or evening performances.

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