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Fabulous Dance Culture of Mexico

Date Posted: 2000-10-06

Hispanic Month is a celebration of all Latin cultures. One distinctive group represents Mexico in their vibrant and energetic dance performances. The Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Okinawa was developed in 1991 and has performed on and off bases around the island.

Since their beginning, dance members have come and gone unfortunately when rotation dates arrived. Only a few of the original members remain here in Okinawa always looking for new members to keep the Ballet alive. This dance troupe performs for almost any occasion to include unit functions, holidays and educational presentations. Within the troupe, there are three divisions; children (age 5 to 11), teen (12-16) and adult (17 and over). There is not a fee to join this troupe. All lessons are free and if the organizers do not have a costume for someone to borrow, they have abundant resources for members to acquire them. It is also not required to be of Hispanic descent. Current and past members are of various origins.

Mexico consists of 32 states and each one of them is portrayed by special symbolic dances. Every one of them is very colorful and very interesting. Jalisco is located in central Mexico and Vera Cruz is down on the Mexican east coast. Jalisco and Vera Cruz are two states of Mexico that the Ballet represents in their performances. Demonstrating organized professionalism they proudly display the vivid colors of the dresses and synchronized steps. Although Ballet Folklorico (also known as Folkloric Dance) has become extremely well known throughout the world, the majority of people don't really know what it is or what it represents. It has much more meaning than just people dancing to old songs with colorful costumes. Just like other culture's folk dances, much of the Mexican culture and traditions are conveyed through these rituals and dances. The costume of Ballet Foklorico is put together by all of those pieces of clothing that can be used to dress the executive type and is complimented by various accessories. The clothing is made with diverse types of fabric with different designs. The accessories chosen depend on the type of costume being worn.

Jalisco is traditionally known for its Mariachi music and intricate dances involving tremendous energy and movement. The beauty, grace and joy of this spectacular art is often marked with the different “sones” or songs of the Mariachi and the colorful costumes from this state. The majority of Jalisco dances express romance and the thousands of different ways to achieve the old time ambition: the love of a woman. On stage we see the strength of the male and the sensuality of the female, who is finally seduced by her partner in a swirling dance of passion. The region of Jalisco features some of the most spectacular folk dances in the world. Jalisco dances carry the trademark "zapateados", which combine indigenous Mexican elements with Spanish influenced dance steps. The zapateados are distinctively rhythmic step dances; Jalisco dancers create rhythmic patterns by brushing and stamping their feet or by tapping heels against a solid surface. Since many of the dances are courtship dances, Jalisco dances are known as Jarabe, which means "sweet syrup".

These Jalisco dances feature the Charro- a horseman dressed in riding costume: close fitting breeches, a short coat, loose tie, boots and the large, elaborate sombrero, all fringed with silver buckles and fancy embroidery. The women wear colorful Jalisco dresses with the fullest skirts in the Mexican Folklorico tradition, or the China Poblana costume.

Vera Cruz is the state known for its quick extraordinary feet movements, and the grace of the women dancing with a fan. The costumes of both, the male and female are primarily white, which enhances the difficult steps and the beautiful smile of the performers. The sones from this state are very interesting and enjoyable as the band mixes a number of beats and creates an extraordinary rhythm. Their costumes represent the Jarochos which is the name given to the residents of Vera Cruz.

Vera Cruz' performers take much pride on their work and truly enjoy presenting part of their beautiful state by these exceptional dances. One particular famous dance of Vera Cruz is "La Bamba". It did not jump out of some songwriter’s head in the 1950’s – in fact, it probably dates back to the beginning of the last century. Its birthplace is southern

Vera Cruz, eastern Oaxaca, and northern Tabasco. This song is in fact not a “song” at all but a “son.” Sones are a musical form that is found in seven areas of Mexico (with regional variation) including Jalisco where it is the root of Mariachi music. Many of us who love Mexico have seen a Ballet Folklorico performance at some point. You may remember that the dancers representing Vera Cruz were dressed in glorious white, the women with red rebozos (shawls), and flowers in their hair. Their dancing consisted of rapidly dashing about the stage, incredibly fast zapateado (footwork) with the women vigorously fanning themselves.

The Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Okinawa is a non-profitable organization. Laura Torres has been the instructor for all three divisions for the last several years. Although her career's education calls her away, she remains in contact with the current instructors offering her much appreciated assistance. Her passion for the dance has inspired many of the members to join other Ballet organizations at their new locations. The Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Okinawa welcomes anyone of any origin to join in the learning, presenting and celebrating of the fabulous dance culture of Mexico.

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