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Posts Tagged ‘Feather dance’

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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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.

P1100717P1100713P1100725P1100756Ahhh…

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

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We returned to Teotitlán del Valle on Tuesday and Wednesday the Danza de la Pluma — more of the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

Moctezuma and Danzantes

An airborne Moctezuma and the Danzantes

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The story is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is an honor to be a participant — the Danzantes, Moctezuma, the Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to the church and community to perform their roles for 3 years.

Dance of Malinche and Doña Marina

Dance of Malinche and Doña Marina

All is not completely serious — the Subalternos provide a little levity along the way.

Subalterno trying on the Penacho of a Danzante

Subalterno trying on the Penacho of a Danzante

The subtext and “hidden” narratives of the danza are multiple and complex and after 5 years, I’m only in the infant stages of understanding.  I will leave it to the two scholarly articles listed below to attempt interpretation.

Danzantes with El Picacho in background

References:

Cohen, Jeffrey.  Danza de la Pluma:  Symbols of submission and separation in a Mexican Fiesta.  Anthropological Quarterly, Jul 93, Vol. 66 Issue 3, p. 149-158.

Harris, Max. The Return of Moctezuma.  The Drama Review, Sp 97, Vol. 41 Issue 1, p. 106, 29 p.

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Do you remember the Danzantes in training from two weeks ago?  All that practice by folkloric dancers from eight villages in the valleys of Oaxaca, was for last night’s “monumental” opening of the Muestra Internacional de Danza Oaxaca.

The dance festival lasts through next Saturday (April 12, 2014), with events taking place at venues throughout the city, AND all are free!

By the way, I’d received an email notice of the dance festival, but it was the comment, “Hope to see us this coming Saturday” from “the danzante with the orange penacho and green shirt” seen in a photo from my blog post, Speaking of Danzantes, that had me making a special point to attend.  Muchisimas gracias a Abdiel for the tip.  I hope you see this post!

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This morning, as I was getting ready to go to my local mercado, I heard the unmistakable sounds of the Danza de la Pluma (feather dance).  I’ve seen it often enough in Teotitlán del Valle to know the music.  While it is performed throughout the valley and is always one of the big hits during July’s Guelaguetza, Teotitlán del Valle is one of only two villages where it is performed as a religious ritual during their three major yearly festivals.

As I approached the Plaza de la Danza, the music got louder and louder.  Once there, I looked down to see 75 – 100 dancers in jeans and t-shirts practicing one of the (forty-one) dances of the Danza de la Pluma.  They were danzantes in training from various folkloric groups in the valley of Oaxaca.

As you can see from the video, the footwork is complex and the steps require a lot of stamina.  And, just wait until they put on the penachos (headdresses)!

I often wonder and worry that the traditional dances will eventually be lost.  Today’s encounter with these young dancers gave me hope.

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The Danza de la Pluma penachos (headdresses), capes, and leggings are spectacular and unique to Teotitlán del Valle.  The feathered designs on the penachos are more intricate and varied than in other pueblos; and the capes and leggings are hand-woven in this village that is internationally known for its weaving.  However, while the Danza de la Pluma is a crowd-pleaser during the annual July Guelaguetza on Cerro del Fortín in Oaxaca, folkloric groups from other villages are usually chosen to perform it, as Teotitlán’s costumes are not considered “authentic.”

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However, performing for tourists is not why Teotitlán del Valle tells this story through music and dance several times a year.  It is performed on the church plaza, not the municipal plaza, because it is an integral part of the annual major religious celebrations of the village:  Fiesta titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in July, Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in September, Fiesta a el Rosario de la Virgen María in October, and Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe in December.

Penachos from the Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María on Sunday…

Capes from Sunday’s Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María and July’s Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo festival.

Leggings from both festivals…

The various elements of the costumes do not come cheap and dancers must appeal to their extended families to assist in commissioning each of the pieces.  Thus, as annual festivals come and go during a dancer’s 3-year commitment, the costumes may evolve.

With their performances, the dancers honor the rituals of their church and community.  And, with their magnificent costumes, they pay homage to the creativity, talent, and tradition of Teotitlán del Valle’s weavers and feather artists.

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We returned to Teotitlán del Valle on Tuesday and Wednesday for performances of the Danza de la Pluma, a ritual re-enactment of the battles between the Aztec and Spanish.  According to OaxacaWiki:

The origin of this dance goes back to the spiritual and physical conquest of Mexico by the Spanish – La Guerra de Conquista. The dance originated in the town of Cuilpam de Guerrero where Martin Cortes (son of Cortes) celebrated the first baptism of his child. Martin played the role of his father and the locals played the roles of the conquered indigenous peoples.

The story is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  Selected years in advance, it is an honor to be a dancer and they perform their roles for 3 years.  This week, during the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, we saw the first performances by the new cast and they looked great!

Presenting the Cast of Characters

Montezuma

Doña Marina (hat) and Malinche (headdress)

2 Subalternos

16 Danzantes:  Teotiles (2), Capitánes (2), Reyes (4), and Vasallos (8)

They are going to be fun to watch during the next 3 years.   (By the way, the costumes may change from day-to-day, but the cast remains the same.)

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