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My love for dance started when my mom put me in ballet and tap classes at the age of six. As I grew up, I signed up for different types of dance classes like hip hop at my local community college. In high school, I was in cheer and drill, and the dance coach would incorporate various dances within each routine. Although I have had a history with dance, I have never taken into consideration my culture and its traditional dances. I am Hispanic. A mix of Guatemalan and Salvadoran from my father’s side and Mexican from my mother’s side. My paper will consist of my Mexican traditions. I will be discussing the origins and cultural values of Folklórico dance and connecting it to my personal experiences.

I am the “dancer” of my family. My family is shy and doesn’t dance. While sitting down with my maternal grandmother, it came as a shock when she told me she would go out almost every day to dance at a disco in Mexico when she was younger. When she married my grandpa, two days before her fifteenth birthday, she did not have time to go out because of wifely duties and caring for her children. I was completely stunned to learn that she was barely 15 when she became a wife but during that period, it was normal for young girls to marry young. It was also normal for a family to have many children. Both my great-grandmothers had 12 living children. I come from a culture where women are supposed to cook, clean, and bear children while the men are to work and take care of the family.

I have chosen to research the dance Folklórico based on its Mexican background and the exciting experience of watching my third-grade teacher perform the dance live that has left me wanting to learn more about it. Another reason why I chose Folklórico is because my grandmother and mother have both seen the dance live as well. I believe learning about this dance will help me discover and learn more about my culture.

There is immense diversity in Mexican folk dances. With the arrival of the Spaniards, new influences were incorporated into existing traditional dances, and new dance forms were formed. Also, European ballroom dances had made their influence on Mexican folk dances through the Spaniards. I believe ballroom dances helped influence Folklórico to become a partner dancer. Some believed folk dances help represent the past and others believed it represented the beginning of a new era.

Folk dance was used as a symbol for Mexican identity but the reasoning behind the symbol was for political motivation. To this end, in the classic romantic nationalist tradition, the Mexican government sponsored various efforts through the Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP), to collect folk dances from throughout Mexico and saw to it that folk dance was taught in the public schools. However, by teaching the dances in public schools, the historical context and symbol were lost and it became stereotyped.

In 1939, the Secretaria de Educacion Publica, brought indigenous dancers and musicians to perform the “original form” of Mexican folklore. I believe what helped spread Folklórico were traveling bands called Carpas. Carpas were a combination of improvisational theater and variety shows, by and for the entertainment of the common people, that emerged from nationalistic sentiment during the post-revolutionary era. Carpas were important in spreading awareness that Folklórico was used as political motivation, but once it was not used for political gain, it brought more tourism to Mexico. The dance was seen as beautiful then and now as well.

One of the best-known groups of Folklórico was El Ballet Folklórico de Mexico. This group in particular was extremely important because of its director, Amalia Hernandez. She would use historical context and ancient Mexican dances to retain and advocate for Mexican culture. She would dance not only on Mexican National TV but in rural areas too.

In the 1930s, Folklórico existed in the United States in public schools and Mexican communities. Even though folk dance was becoming popular, Mexican culture was seen as foreign forcing the younger generation to leave that part of their culture behind. This continued throughout the 1960 Civil Rights Movement and Chicanos revived Folklórico as a tool to help promote the goals of the Civil Rights Movement. Utilizing the dance as a tool helped Hispanics embrace their culture again.

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Not only did Folklórico help Mexican culture it helped Puerto Rican as well. While not politically tuned, and often falling to ideological pitfalls common in salsa music such as the stereotype of the nosy woman in “Carmen La Ronca,” the Folklórico blending of tradition with the most appealing music of the moment is a guide for the progress of the Puerto Rican musical form. Compared to the dance salsa, Folklórico allowed more improvisation, which was a major factor. I am grateful that part of my culture was able to impact another culture positively.

I believe knowing the history does affect me learning the dance. I am more appreciative of the dance and the history it represents. Every dance is unique in its way but being a tool in the Civil Rights Movement made me so proud. I feel as if the dancers should learn the history behind the dance not just the routine. In the present day, people practice Folklórico as a hobby but also to preserve their culture. Today it can be a form of entertainment but during the Civil Rights Movement, it was seen as disrespectful and threatening to other cultures.

Juan Gil Martinez created Calabaceados a newer choreographed routine in Folklórico. Taking into consideration of genuineness of the dance, new choreographers are limited when making new routines. Maintaining the authenticity of the dance should be important for new dancers because if not maintained they will be losing part of the value of the dance.

When viewing the dance Folklórico, the first thing that catches your eye is the costuming. The female dancers tend to wear big flowy dresses. The dresses are usually off the shoulder and either one solid color with multi-color trimming on the edges or the dress is all white with multi-color trimming on the edges. The female dancers traditionally tend to wear their hair up in a braided bun. Flowers are also placed in their hair or ribbons are weaved into their braids. They wear colorful makeup and a bold lip. Male dancers traditionally tend to wear black or white suits with colorful ascot to match the female dancers. They also wear a sombrero when performing. Both female and male dancers wear shoes with tiny heels to make tapping noises when dancing.

During a performance, you can note that female dancers do big movements with their arms by swinging and holding their dresses high up. Folklórico’s routine contains a lot of taps and stomping with a repetition of steps. The music tends to be fast and upbeat. The performers will smile big and look happy on stage, unlike other cultural dances. There is a lot of spinning in the dance routine and the majority of the time the female dancers have their hands on the hips or swaying their dresses. The male dancers will usually have their hands behind their backs, on their hips, or holding their partner. The women will have more of a pointed toe than the men. In this dance, the men tend to be more masculine and the women are supposed to be seen as feminine and beautiful. The performances can be both men and women or just women.

Even though folklórico may look like a lot of stomping there is a lot of technique in the dance than what the eye can see. Nailing the basic footwork, or zapateado, is probably the first thing you’ll learn as a folklórico dancer. Ramirez [a choreographer] breaks down the foot into four parts for her students- the toes, heels, soles(plants), and balls. Each area can be isolated during any combination. Combinations are always to the beat of the music. The dancers have slightly bent knees to help them bounce better. It is a lot of cardio to move so quickly for the duration of a performance. In this dance foot footwork and armwork are important. Sometimes the arms and legs move in opposite motions. The footwork is firm and there is no shuffling involved. The dancers will know the need to move and will dance in sync for parts of the dance. Arm strength is also involved due to the swaying of the dress in wide motions and turns. The routines are also counted in sets to help the dancers count the steps.

I was extremely excited to be able to learn part of a routine, but I quickly realized how intense it would be. Due to work and transportation issues, I had to choose the option of watching YouTube tutorials of the dance. The dancers make it look way easier than it is. I chose to challenge myself to learn part of the routine of “El Son De La Negra”. Although I do have a history with dance, I have not danced in a while and am a little rusty which is seen in the video. I tried to dance in my boots to help simulate the heels in the dancers’ shoes. I wore a skirt to try to mimic the flowy skirt, but my skirt was too narrow so I kept my arms on my hips. I also put my hair in a bun and flowers to try to bring some of the costuming into my video. I tried my best, but nerves got the best of me even though I kept trying to record

To summarize, folklórico is an important historical, versatile dance that I am grateful to have in my culture. I knew about the Civil Rights Movement and its effects on the Chicano people, but I did not know folklórico was a tool that was utilized. The dance almost lost its authenticity when it was used for political motivation and when it was taught in public schools. To fully appreciate a dance, we must learn its historical value and how it changed throughout time. Just like European dances influenced Mexican folk dance, Folklórico influenced Puerto Rican culture and dance. This dance and assignment made me remember to fully appreciate and embrace my culture. Dance is a beautiful representation of determination and strength in an art form.

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