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I remember the first time I saw Amalia Hernandez’s Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. I was nine years old and nestled quite comfortably between my aunt and uncle during a particularly cool summer evening in Mexico. Although I am the first in my family to be born and raised in the United States, I have been fortunate enough to spend almost every summer since I can remember with my family basking in the Mexican sun and attempting to learn how to cook my grandmother’s recipes.

Photo by Robert Shomler

Amalia Hernandez’s Ballet Folklorico holds a special place in Mexico’s heart as it presents its viewer with the richness and vigor found within our culture. Each dance celebrates the different regions and their respective traditions with a beautiful display of gracefully choreographed movements and stunning costumes. Here, Mexico’s rich heritage is displayed right before your eyes.

Photo by Robert Shomler

That evening, I particularly remember being struck by “La Danza del Venado” (Deer Dance) which is native to the Yaqui tribe from the northern Mexican state of Sonora. The dancers reenact a dramatic deer hunt, honoring the cycle of life as well as the white-tailed deer which provided for most of the Yaqui’s needs. This tradition is particularly poignant because it has little to no European influence as the Yaqui fiercely resisted Spanish conquest. Moving to the sound of the reed flute, percussion, rasp and rattle, “La Danza del Venado” invites you to enter the Mexico that is wild and untamed – it is a journey to the authentic Mexico. I gasped with awe at each leap the mighty deer took and was honestly horrified at its fate as the two hunters slowly conquered the beast. To say it was mesmerizing would be an understatement. It taps into the primitive, the wild. It captures the essence of Mexico.

Photo by Joan Shomler

This dance was so memorable for me because it was a part of my heritage that I had yet to experience. Stripped of its oppressive and bloody history, I saw a Mexico that was free and un-inhibited. The sense of pride that I felt that evening was an experience that I will never forget, because somewhere deep down in my nine-year-old subconscious I knew that this was what the real Mexico was all about. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good round of mariachi just as much as the next gal. But what is more meaningful to me is the celebration of the multi-dimensional Mexico, from white-tailed deer to Jarocho.

– Bryana Marrero, Programming Intern
The Long Center

Ballet Folklorico De Mexico will be at the Long Center on October 23. Click here for more information and tickets.

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Ballet Folklorico De Mexico isn’t a typical ballet. It doesn’t look like ‘The Nutcracker’ and it definitely doesn’t look like ‘Black Swan.’ Now we love Tchaikovsky ballets as much as anyone, but the lack of resemblance is actually a good thing.

When dancer and choreographer Amalia Hernández founded Ballet Folklorico De Mexico in Mexico City back in 1962, she gave ballet a somewhat novel twist. As a classically trained dancer, Hernández knew all the things ballet was supposed to be – graceful, elegant, refined, and with just about as little in common with folk art as possible. She just didn’t care about what it was ‘supposed’ to be.

Hernández took the regional folk dances of Mexico and blended them with ballet. This kind of folk art infusion changed the classical music landscape through composers like Antonín Dvořák and Béla Bartók. And while Amalia Hernández might not have the worldwide recognition that Dvořák and Bartók have found, she’s no less of an innovator. Hernández and Ballet Folklorico pioneered the ‘baile folklórico‘ amalgam of Latin American folk dance and classical European dance.

Amalia Hernández’s Ballet Folklorico De Mexico combines the high art of ballet with the ethnic and regional folk dances of Mexico. The dances are often stylized – many of the choreographies are from Hernández herself – but they still retain some of the regional folk traditions that are disappearing from the modern world. But Ballet Folklorico De Mexico isn’t celebrating what their culture was, not who they as a people were; it isn’t a nostalgic nod to the past-tense but a celebration of who they are. A celebration of the idea that your roots are part of you and that ignoring those roots means ignoring a part of oneself.

And we’re looking forward to celebrating all of these things with them.

– Nick Curry, Development Intern
The Long Center

Ballet Folklorico De Mexico will be at the Long Center on October 23. Click here for more information and tickets.

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