Category: Shaping Identity

Ballet Folklórico Mexicano

Ballet folklórico—traditional Mexican folk dancing—has become a defining element of Mexican popular culture at the national and international levels, despite the prevalence of foreign influences in modern Mexican “pop” culture. Although its history is chaotic, ballet folklórico has successfully carved itself a niche in the Mexican psyche . Periodic waves of Mexican nationalism during the 19th and 20th centuries reinvigorated folk …

Dancing Devils in Puno, Perú: A Summary

English + EspañolI remember the setting well because the name captivated me: Ruinas del Gran Hotel. It was exactly that: the remains of a luxurious building that, from the 1940s until the earthquake that destroyed Managua the day before Christmas Eve of 1972, had lodged distinguished guests and stars of the international jet set. It was located on Avenida Roosevelt, in what had begun to be remembered in my …

Lessons in Güegüense: An Old Dancer

English + Español
I remember the setting well because the name captivated me: Ruinas del Gran Hotel. It was exactly that: the remains of a luxurious building that, from the 1940s until the earthquake that destroyed Managua the day before Christmas Eve of 1972, had lodged distinguished guests and stars of the international jet set. It was located on Avenida Roosevelt, in what had begun to be remembered in my …

Sacred Dance in the Peruvian Highlands

Long ago, a young shepherd named Marianito Mayta lived in the mountains above Mahuayani, caring for his aging father and tolerating the abuse of his lazy older brother. One day, a boy appeared who began to help Marianito with his chores. The Ocongate priest soon learned of this strange boy, whose white garments never ripped or stained, and, accusing him of stealing clothing from the church’s saints, decided to catch the rogue. …

Knowledgeable Bodies: Basque Traditional Dance and Nationalism

Imagine you are vacationing on the beach in Spain. What if you step out of your hotel on the first morning and see masses of people swarming toward you, brandishing flags and shouting in a language you don’t understand, as masked policemen clad in black and red jump suits and big black boots encourage orderl? Down at the plaza, silent attention to speeches alternates with loud chanting. Fists jut into the air, unmoving. …

Más Allá de los Clichés: Dance and Identity in Cuba

In 1955, the prolific Cuban scholar and ethnologist, Fernando Ortiz, claimed “dance is the principal and most enthusiastic diversion of the Cuban people, it is their most genuinely indigenous production and universal exportation.” Dance may not be the Cuban diversion, but the identification of Cuba with dance certainly surfaces in the popular imagination—most recently in Hollywood’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, and decades …

Caboclo Ritual Dance: Bringing the Juke-Joint into the Church

To give oneself to dance is to experience the moving body as sacred. For anyone who believes that the alienation of the body from the spirit is simply an inevitable symptom of modernity, I offer a personal challenge: are you certain you’ve danced already? But if you have and remain unconvinced, I leave you with this mini-narrative about a peculiar type of ritual popular in urban Brazil. May it inspire your thoughts for the next dance! …

La plena inmortal

La tradición medieval y renacentista encarnada en La danza de la muerte me ha fascinado desde mi temprana adolescencia. Los esqueletos musicantes y danzantes que sacan a bailar a papas y emperadores, reinas y marquesas, labriegos y médicos, cortesanas y monjas, estas calacas que sonrientes y fiesteras los invitan a participar del último jolgorio, la postrera jarana, el parison del estribo me han tentado por más de medio siglo a …

The Meanings of Samba: What has happened to the dance of racial democracy?

I like dancing, and no better dance than samba. My samba, though, always feels, as it no doubt looks, like a stilted attempt at the dance, rather than the real thing. I can recognize that in videoclips from Rio’s Sambadrome, in the street during the Carnivals of Olinda and Salvador, or when Brazilian friends dance in celebration of a World Cup victory. Real samba is a body unselfconsciously flowing in response to a syncopated beat, melding …

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