In recent years the visits of folk ballets have been few and far between, pero in earlier times (1950s to 1980s) they were frequent and often meant fruitful revelations, adding new cultural elements to the spectator´s life. When they are good (and they generally are) they leave a sediment of curiosity and empathy and become the best ambassadors of their country.
Moiseiev, Beriozka, Mazowsze, Philippines, Africa...and the Ballet Folklórico de México, were Bringers of Joy (paraphrasing Holst´s Jupiter from "The Planets"). The latter visited us for the second time thirty years ago, and its return (at the Coliseo) was long overdue.
I visited Mexico in 2009 and the BFM was performing at its resident venue, the beautiful and vast Palacio de Bellas Artes, both museum and auditorium. I was very sorry to be frustrated in my attempt to see them because of an excursion to Taxco and Cuernavaca.
The BFM, founded by Amalia Hernández in 1952, changes very little over the years; rightly, there´s no "aggiornamento": what we see existed fifty and even a hundred years ago. Pancho Villa is evoked, the corridos, the mariachis, the evergreens that are in the memory of many Argentines as symbols of Mexico ("La Bamba", "Jarabe Tapatío", and so on).
Mexico is basically a "mestizo" country, a blend of the native peoples and Spanish blood, and this is reflected in their songs and dances, although with some territorial differences (e.g., the blend with Aztec or with Maya). They are fiercely nationalistic even now, when the Revolution is centenary, and their colorful and violent history is vividly painted in the murals of Rivera and Siqueiros. Although the BFM basically shows the sunnier side of life, it does touch upon conflictive days of yore. Also, the "Danza del venado" is still a staple of their repertoire, a Yaqui dance (only tribe that has no mixture).
I will not translate all the titles of the tableaux, I feel my bilingual readers will appreciate them as they are. The First Part, after an Overture, presented "Los concheros", in which the dancers use the jingles in their feet for a strong statement of the Pre-Hispanic Mexicans and of Catholic beliefs, with resplendent feathery attire. "Sones antiguos de Michoacán" shows three barefeet dances; one with jingles, the other two "jarabes" (fast charming steps); this is the lovely region of Pátzcuaro and Morelia. Then, "Tarima de Tixtla", three happy dances from a small city in the Estado de Guerrero, whose capital is Chilpancingo: "El Toro", "El Arranca Zacate" ("zacate" is "grass") and "La Iguana". Followed "La Revolución" (1910), rebels sing and dance "Adelita" whilst crashing a party of aristocrats.
"Charreada". In "La Charrería" men and women do dances derived from their work in the fields ("charro" is "cowboy") and in them the "common good" is identified with "love". Finally, a 17-minute "Fiesta en Tlacotalpan" (a picturesque Veracruz pueblo) goes through 14 dances and songs and features enormous puppets called "mojigangas"; the Spanish influence is evident in the fandangos.
The beautiful pre-Hispanic "Danza de los quetzales" (wonderful feathers adorning the dancers´clothes), danced at Puebla, started the Second Part. Then, a Danzón (derived from the Habanera) and a Jarana, a fusion of Maya music and Spanish zapateado and jota. Then, the aforementioned "Danza del venado", so characteristic. And finally, a rambunctious "Fiesta en Jalisco" in which the dancers of the troupe descend to the stalls and dance with the audience members in a paroxysm of joyful communication.
All this wonderfully done by anonymous dancers and by impressive musicians with that inimitable sound of the mariachis (exciting trumpet interventions) and strong-voiced singers. And with splendid clothes and props. A true feast all the way.
For Buenos Aires Herald