Posts Tagged ‘dance’

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.




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


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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Live streaming of the Guelaguetza performances at the Guelaguetza auditorium atop Cerro del Fortín, July 21 and 28 at 10 AM and 5 PM (Central Daylight Time).


Update:  La Guelaguetza 2014 is over, however you can view all the performances on Vive Oaxaca’s YouTube channel.


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Not only is the previously mentioned Oaxaca FilmFest4 opening tomorrow night, but last night a calenda up Morelos heralded the arrival of the 8th Congreso Nacional de Danzón.  Alas, it was raining, I’m a wimp, and so stayed home.  However, the music coming from the Plaza de la Danza sounded wonderful.  Sigh….

If you are walking around Oaxaca during the next few days, be on the lookout for the guapas y guapos (the guys are all duded up, too) of Danzón.  They are adding a lot of glitz and glamour to the streets of the city.

3 women dressed in glittery dresses

For the uninitiated, Danzón is a very stately dance that originated in Cuba.  However, it seems to be most beloved in Puerto Rico and Mexico.  It has especially flourished in Oaxaca, where one can find dancers young and old dancing under the laurel trees in the Zócalo every Wednesday evening at 6:30.  And, no wonder it has retained its popularity here, according to Wikipedia, “many famous danzones were composed by Oaxacan musicians such as the famous Nereidas and Teléfono de larga distancia, both works of Amador Pérez Dimas, from the town of Zaachila, near Oaxaca city.”

If you aren’t anywhere where Danzón is performed, you can check out the 1991 movie, Danzón:

Julia (Rojo) is a phone operator in Mexico City who divides her time between her job, her daughter and the danzon: a cuban dance very popular in Mexico and Central America. Every wednesday Julia does the danzon with Carmelo (Rergis) in the old “Salon Colonia”. They’ve danced for years but barely know each other. One night Carmelo disappears without a trace. Feeling lonely and sad, Julia takes a train to Veracruz, where she knows Carmelo has a brother. That sudden trip will change Julia’s life forever. IMDB

I haven’t seen the movie, but according to one reviewer, the soundtrack is worth the rental price.  I’m going to try to find it!

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I’ve got to admit that up until yesterday, I was suffering from Guelaguetza burn-out.  In fact, I still have 1000+ photos that need to be weeded down to a more manageable number.

However, then yesterday happened — “Una Guelaguetza muy especial” presented by the very special people of Los Angeles de Luzy.   Sixteen young people with Down’s Syndrome, from the Yucatan, Campeche, and Oaxaca danced the traditional dances of the eight regions of Oaxaca in the Plaza de la Danza.

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Part of Oaxaca’s first Down’s Syndrome festival, it was an inspiring, moving, and incredibly joyful experience — and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  ¡Muchisimas gracias a Los Angeles de Luzy!

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My mom was a folk dancer.  She had studied ballet, tap, and acrobatic dancing when she was young and brought that training and muscle memory along with her when she took up folk dancing in her mid thirties.  I spent many hours over the years watching her dance; the Kamarinskaya from Russia, Swedish Hambo, Fandango from Portugal, Mexico’s Jarabe Tapatio, and so many more.  In addition to being a talented dancer, she made her own costumes.  A dressmaker’s dummy was a permanent fixture in her bedroom, yards of colorful cotton fabric and braid were piled next to the sewing machine, and in the evenings her hands and eyes were often occupied embroidering pieces for a new costume.

Mom died in 1989, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.  So, on this Mother’s Day, this is for you mom…

Multicolored huipil with peacock design


Jewel toned embroidered huipil with peacock design

Zinacatán, Chiapas, Mexico

Black skirt embroidered on the diagonal with flowers

Zinacatán, Chiapas, Mexico

Black dress with gold-tone embroidery on sleeve and bodice.

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Geometric yellow and red embroidery on purple skirt with lace bottom

Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Close up of the back of a brightly embroidered huipil on black velvet

Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

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As promised…

And, there is SO much more!!!

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In August 2011, Vive Oaxaca launched a campaign to showcase the best of the state through a series of video shorts.  Two have already been released online:

Esto es Zaachila

and, Esto es Guelaguetza

I’m looking forward to Monday night’s online release of, Esto es Oaxaca de Juárez.  I guess you know what my Tuesday morning blog post will be!

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Yesterday, I opted for the smaller and more intimate Guelaguetza in the Villa de Etla, about 12 miles northwest of Oaxaca city.  As far as I could tell, seven of the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca were present; only the Sierra Sur was missing.  FYI:  In the photos below, I purposefully left out the Plume dancers, who represented the Valles Centrales, as you will find plenty of photos of the Danza de la Pluma in my postings from the Fiesta de Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle.  By the way, Chris at Oaxaca-The Year After posted a terrific Guelaguetza Guide to assist in identifying the regions of Oaxaca.  It’s in Spanish, but even a non-Spanish speaker can learn quite a bit.

On a more serious note… I was reminded today by a Oaxaqueña friend, Guelaguetza in the city of Oaxaca is controversial.  Tickets (available through TicketMaster, I might add) for reserved seating to the official performances on Cerro Fortín at the (newly renovated and hotly disputed) Guelaguetza Auditorium are beyond the reach of most Oaxaqueños, some events are sponsored by Coca Cola, hundreds of thousands of pesos of tax payer monies have been spent on the sound and light show (spectacular, as it is), nightly fireworks, bringing in celebrities, and slick, though often inaccurate, publicity.  All is geared (well, not the inaccuracies) toward tourists; a boon to the restaurants and hotels around the zócalo.  But…

Unfortunately, what is lost is that the Guelaguetza is supposed to be a celebration that brings together the extremely diverse indigenous communities, from the various regions of the state to share their crafts, food, dance.  It wasn’t supposed to be crass commercialism that caters to tourists and well-heeled locals, at the expense of peoples who originated the tradition.  And, my friend asked, along with admiring their costumes and colorful dances, wouldn’t a portion of the pesos be better spent attending to the real and extremely pressing needs of the poverty stricken indigenous communities, especially with regard to infrastructure and education?

However, yesterday in Etla, I caught, perhaps, a glimpse of the original meaning of Guelaguetza.  Admission was free and open to one and all.  Free tamales and beverages (alcoholic and non) were offered to the standing-room only crowd, along with the sombreros, baskets, fans, whisk brooms, tlayudas, and fruit that each of the delegations of dancers tossed to the audience at the end of their performances.  After it was over, fellow blogger Chris and I looked around and realized, we were probably the only gringo and gringa in attendance.  What an honor and privilege!

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The rain held off long enough today for the conclusion of  Oaxaca’s Sexto (6th) Festival Nacional de Danzón.  Like last year, I was captivated by young and old, feet and faces, formality and style, intensity and joy; and everything in between coming together under the laurels of the Zócalo.

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Hmmm…  I wonder if I can work up the nerve to inquire about dance lessons at the studio around the corner???

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Sunday, in the Plazuela de Carmen Alto, celebrations honoring the Christ of Esquipulas (Black Christ) were in full swing. I was awakened at 6 AM to the sound of fuegos artificiales (fireworks) and eventually drifted off to sleep after 11:30 PM, as fireworks’ explosions resumed.

Festivities lasted all day and I couldn’t resist heading up to the church courtyard to see what was happening.

When I arrived, seats in the shade were filled and a small crowd was gathered behind a barricade; a castillo, laying on its side in three parts, was being constructed; a teenage Oaxacan brass band, with the requisite tuba towering over the other instruments and their players, was waiting to play; and young dancers were performing with a combination of earnestness and joy.

Skirts flying

Dance always seems to be an integral part of celebrations both secular and religious, and, in reflecting on my love for this, at times, perplexing and contradictory place, dance is one of the things that resonates the most.

Piña Dancers

A small stage set up under the trees; dancers, their handmade and unique costumes; energetic music; choreographed steps passed down through generations spirited me back to my childhood…

Mom and me

Let’s dance!

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After a delightful but whirlwind (6 days is too short) visit, my stepson and his wife have come and gone; this year’s Guelaguetza festivities are over; life at Casita Colibrí is gradually resuming a more leisurely rhythm; and our current historic rain has gone on hiatus.  A quiet solo Sunday morning walk beckoned, as did the APPO banners, strung along the arches of the Palacio de Gobierno, that I wanted to photograph.

Oaxaca se levanta

The banners are a work of art, but ephemeral — here today, gone tomorrow — and I never seem to have my camera with me when I come across them.

"Respeto a la autonomia de San Juan Copala"

And, more importantly, they are a graphic reminder that behind the vitality, beauty, and quaint cosmetics of “new” cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site facade, class warfare lurks in the shadows.

Oaxaca’s contradictions are mine.  I turn the corner and walk over to puesto 80 at Mercado Juárez to see if they’ve gotten in the chocolate covered coffee beans.  No, maybe tomorrow…  I stop by the temporary pocket market in front of the Jesuit church on the corner and satisfy my sweet tooth by buying a bag of melt-in-your-mouth Merengue Sabor Cafe, instead.

The Zócalo has awakened during my 45 minutes of shopping; young and old strolling arm-in-arm, vendors selling their wares, shoes being shined, outside tables occupied with diners chatting or simple watching the scene before them.

People strolling; vendors selling

And, there is music — always, there is music — today an orchestra has set up under the laurels for the final day of the Festival Nacional de Danzón.  The dance, with its origins in Cuba, is stately and prescribed, with inexplicable pauses where dancers turn to face the orchestra, women move to the right side of their partners, fan themselves, and then several measures later dancing resumes.

Dancers in traditional Oaxacan dress

I’m captivated by the dancers who are at once, serious and joyful, and by their varied attire — once a costumer, always a costumer!

Dancers - woman in slacks

Most dancers are in the latter third of their life, though there are a few earnest young people.

Young dancers

It’s a prosperous crowd — a dance of the elite — but mesmerizing to watch.


After an hour of observing this very “civilized” scene under an intense sun, I headed to Independencia, the shady side of the street, and home, only to stop, reel around, and follow the sounds of a calenda coming into the Alameda; band, dancers, fireworks — celebrating Día del Comerciante!


I leave feeling conflicted about my three hours on a sunny Sunday.  The lines from the song inspired by the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike come to mind…

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

Lunch eaten, clouds gather, sky darkens, and Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge.

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