• Andrew Lipian

Ballet Folclórico Dazzles Stocker

It was a fiesta Friday evening at Stocker as Ballet Folclórico – the National Ballet company of Mexico – dazzled audiences with a quick-stepping, foot stomping kaleidoscope of colorful dances. This happy band – 30-some strong and 60-years long – represents part of the larger Ballet company, tasked with “the dissemination, preservation and promotion of the Culture of México.” Friday’s performance – seasoned with piquant zest and spirit – splashed onto the canvas of the stage in cilantro and lime greens, hot-pepper reds, citrus orange and sunflower yellows. Gowns with extensions like fins whipped around in gaiety downstage an 11-piece Mariachi band and beside leaping Men in Sombreros. The sprightly energy was palpable, with audience members shouting “Tocar!” and “Baila!” as attendees from “Abuelitas” to “Muchachos” clapped, sang, and danced with abandon from the festivities.

The multivariable costumes, musical styles, dances, and props signified the various States of Mexico, taking us on a tour up the coast of the country from the Isthmus at the South of Mexico, to Jalisco West of Mexico City. Regions like Oaxaca were reflected by large headdresses, recalling the Aztecs, while more northerly areas featured line dancing smacking of the border areas they hail from. There was even a giant May Pole, around which the dancers completed a carefully choreographed circular dance, wrapping the multicolored ribbons ‘round. This while a procession danced on the periphery with tall poles bedecked in flowers and topped with candles.

Most spectacularly, these dances did not merely seek to amuse, they told stories. Duets often occurred with flirtatious male-female couples trading coquettish teases – encircling each other rapturously until hiding their faces behind a hat for a suggestive kiss. There were surprises, too, such as when a couple tied a red ribbon into a bow from the floor using only their feet, or when a trumpeter from the Mariachi band showed off by holding a note as long as he could – seemingly for minutes – accompanied by growing applause from a delighted audience.

Behind the music, dance, and national pride de Mexico, however, there was an unannounced, but deeply felt impression. These were folk-stories passed down through centuries by oral and kinetic traditions, like Beowolf to the Anglo-Saxons or the fables of Aesop to the Greeks. The sentiments presented by them reminiscent of those from a deep ancestral past, now preserved by a fragile generational relay in which traditions are honored through practice and pride. This practice of spontaneous dance, and the singing of familiar songs together feels now as fragile as the traditions they honor. In today’s techno-milieu of iPhones and Social Media profiles, it can be hard to forget oneself – to let oneself go and celebrate together the familiar melodies and practices that define our societal bonds to one another. But as the audience was swept up singing, standing, and moving to these popular tunes Friday night, it became clear that Ballet Folclórico will ensure they live on – lively and blithely – for all time.

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