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Desiree Henderson

Art of the Dance


03.12.2010
Traditional Dances of Mexico

Mexico
I didnt realize how many different nationalities were mixed in my family until now.
Having to write this paper really enlightened me on my historic background. I discovered that
Great Grandfather on my Dads side was from Mexico. I thought this was pretty neat because I
have always been interested in the Mexican traditions.
I know when I think of Mexican traditions one of the first things that come to mind is
their music. The foundation of Mexican music comes from its indigenous sounds and heritage.
Some of the original instruments were drums, flutes, maracas, sea shells and voices to make
music and dances. This ancient music is still played in some parts of Mexico. However, much of
the traditional contemporary music of Mexico was written during and after the Spanish colonial
period, using many European instruments. Some instruments whose predecessors were brought
from Europe, such as the vihuela used in Mariachi music, are now strictly Mexican.
Mexican society enjoys several different music genres, showing the diversity of Mexican
culture, however; Traditional music includes Mariachi, Banda, Norteo, Ranchera and Corridos.

Folk songs called corridos have been popular in the country since the 16th century. It may tell the
story about the Mexican Revolution, pride, Mestizo, romance, poverty, politics or crime.
Folk dances are a feature of Mexican culture. Significant in dance tradition is the "Jarabe
Tapato", known as "Mexican hat dance". Traditional dancers perform a sequence of hopping
steps, heel and toe tapping movements. Theres a rich history behind the dances and the costumes
worn depending on the region it originates from. For instance The Mexican Hat dance, and El
Son de la Negra, the sound of the dark skinned woman are both courtship dances. For the dance
El Son de La Negra, the men wear Charro outfits, more familiarly known as mariachi outfits. The
women wear colorful, double-circle skirts embellished with ribbons. The dancing from this
region consists of flourishing arm movements, and loud, intricate stomping. Some interpretations
of El Jarabe Tapatio have the females wearing beautifully sequined skirts. Then the Mexican Hat
Dance is where they express their emotions through movements, a couple or a group of couples
tell the story of love and courtship. Females usually wear a servant girl outfit, and males wear
Mexican macho outfit, consisting of sombrero, tight pants, waist length jacket and boots. The
music of the dance is a mix of Mexican folk music and was composed in the 19th century by
Jess Gonzlez Rubio, a professor of music in Guadalajara, Mexico, which incidentally ties into
the second word of the Mexican phrase for the Mexican Hat Dance; tapat o means "coming
from Guadalajara, Jalsico". Jarape is a sort of dance or can be translated to mean "elixir". It was
originally choreographed by Felipa Lopez to help celebrate and remember the successful end of
the Mexican Revolution, which was considered to have ended around 1920.

The history goes that the dance gained popularity in 1919 when Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova
visited Mexico and fell in love with the dance as well as the culture and the costumes of Mexico

at the time. She incorporated the dance and costumes into her routine and it became a regular as
well as popular part of her performances. In fact, it became so popular and well known that in
1924, the Secretary of Education Jos Vasconcelos declared it the national dance of Mexico,
making it so important that it was required to be taught in school. Then the dancing starts. The
man starts out by dancing what is called a zapateado and this is basically a sequence of tapping
and stamping in a choreographed way to show his manliness to the woman. The woman is then
impressed by this but the man has become a barracho (inebriate) and is shooed away by the
woman for his foolishness. The man then throws his hat to the ground as the tension begins to
build between the couple. When the woman bends to pick it up, he kicks his leg over her head,
thus conquering her. The couple then dances together in unison to a military tune referred to as a
diana, which is meant to symbolize that they are now one. The dance ends with the couple
kissing (whether real or not is up to the couple I would suppose) behind the sombrero.

This dance has so much pride, culture, and history in it of the Mexican people. More than just a
simple routine of someone dancing around a sombrero, because of its history and rise to
popularity thanks to the involvement of Pavlova, today it keeps on being a way that the Mexican
celebrate their heritage when they have celebrations for Cinco de Mayo or any other holiday that
helps to celebrate cultures.
Another dance comes from Mexico, which was heavily influenced by the Spaniards.
From this region comes a dance called Los Viejitos, The Old Men. This dance is primary done by
males, wearing simple peasant outfits of white pants and shirt, carrying a cane, and a straw hat
with colorful ribbons hanging around the edge of the brim. Each dancer wears a very fair skincolored mask of an old man. This is a comical dance that was created by the indigenous people in

which they make fun of the Spaniards, hence the light-skinned masks. The dancers start off
shuffling around with their canes, on wobbly legs, and making gestures that an old man would
make that suffers from arthritis, or gets tired easily. They pick fights with each other, and chase
each other across the stage. Towards the end of the dance, a pretty girl walks across the stage,
and one of the old men will point her out to the others, as he starts to follow her. But, alas, he is
old and falls to the ground like he has fainted. His fellow viejitos rush to him, and comically try
to resuscitate him by compressing on his chest. With each compression, the old man's legs fly
into the air, until finally he comes to, and the group dances off the stage.
Although I have never had the opportunity to see one of these dances live, I did take the
time to look them up online and brings a greater appreciation knowing the meanings behind each
one. Each costume, each gesture, each step tells a story, and by understanding this, the dances are
much more memorable.