Dances and Costumes of Mexico
1 October 2010
Heather Rees looks at what influences this great culture
Mexico has a rich culture of dance, music and costumes. The variety of styles owes much to both Aztec and Spanish influences. The costumes differ in each State, as do the music and style of dancing.
Mexico comprises 31 States and one Federal District, three of which are listed below. Each boasts its own unique style.
The dances of Jalisco are the most popular in Mexico, due to the interesting and rhythmic footwork and the attractive use of the skirts.
The dresses can be white or a plain colour. The bodice has a frill at the neckline and a skirt consisting of a double circle, edged with rows of ribbon. Triangular or diamond shaped patterns sometimes cover the remainder of the skirt to complete the décor. The double fullness enables incredibly beautiful shapes made by twirling the skirt in a ‘Figure of 8’ and other patterns. The firm hold and impetus in the arm movements ensure the dynamic flow of the skirt. This vision of movement, together with the rhythmic sound of the footwork and the flirtatious quality of presentation (not forgetting the accompaniment of the Mariachi) result in a vivacious performance.
The men’s apparel consists of black trousers with silver decoration down the side of the leg, a white shirt, a cummerbund around the waist and a black jacket decorated with silver. The headgear is usually the very wide brimmed black hat decorated with sequins and braiding.
In the dances of Veracruz, there is a great influence from the Spanish culture. They are performed with strong steps of toe and heel or cepillados (brushes) guachapeos and pivots. The Jarocho (the name given to the people of Veracruz) have strong characters and often gather together in noisy crowds. The dances are rhythmic and energetic but more refined than those of Jalisco. The use of the skirt is similar but minimal and less flamboyant.
The costume, a white dress with a full skirt has a frill on the bottom, a black embroidered apron and a head dress of red flowers. Men wear white trousers and jacket, a red neckerchief and a small straw hat. The music is instrumental but mostly accompanied by songs.
The Istmo of Tehuantepec is a mix of groups of the north-east and of the west of Mexico. Oaxaca has its own traditions and costumes. An important dance of the women of the village is one in which they carry the traditional presents on their heads – baskets filled with flowers and fruit, decorated with cut paper flags. They perform their slow, rhythmic dance to the sound of the Marimba. The dance is languorous and graceful with an erect carriage and faces in repose. It is performed bare foot. The costume consists of a loose blouse and a full skirt, basically black and decorated with braiding or embroidery in strong, bright colours. On the bottom of the skirt is a white lace, pleated frill.
The unique head-dress resembles a baby’s white christening dress affixed to the head in different fashions, according to whether performing in a religious or social function. Music consists of wind instruments in the mountain range and Chilenas at the coast.
The survival and continuation of these beautiful dances owes much to Amalia Hernandez, who founded the company Ballet Folklorico de Mexico at Bellas Artes, Mexico City. The traditions are also preserved at the Government School (Director, Hector Fink) where students study all regions. Workshops were conducted by Auda de los Cobos in England, Wales and Scotland in 2005 and 2007 (the Mexican group illustrated in the last issue was inspired by these workshops). A package of video, DVD and notes is available from both workshops. For further information or purchase of package, please contact Heather Rees by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Auda de los Cobos with Heather Rees
Photo shows a white dress from Veracruz