Dance Tidbits – Dances of Mexico, Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of the dances of Mexico.  Mexico has some of the most beautiful and richly decorated costumes of any country in the world. I’ve decided to focus on costumes for this blog because the history of the costumes was so interesting.  Also when you see the people/dancers wearing the wonderful, traditional costumes at festivals, shows, and ceremonies, you can tell how proud they are of their heritage and culture.  There’s something so stunning about both the female and male costumes. It makes the dancers seem to bring so much more life to the dances.

Here is the famous story about Mexico’s “national dance,” called the “Mexican Hat Dance” also known as Jarabe that fascinates me and I would like to share it with you. This dance became popular in the 20th century by the famous Russian dancer Anna Pavlova. She visited Mexico in 1919; fell in love with both Mexico and “The Mexican Hat Dance.” She included the dance in her repertoire and was the one who made it famous!   The other part of the story is the costumes. The charro suit is from Mexico’s cowboy tradition and the famous “China Poblana” outfit is based on the dress of an Asian woman who became famous in the city of Puebla in the colonial period. Today, this dress, especially the skirt, is heavily decorated with patriotic themes.

The most famous costumes of Mexican dance, of course, are the China Poblana and the Charro because they represent Mexico’s national dance, the “Mexican Hat Dance.” The Charro suit is decorated with silver buttons and is also famous for being part of the Mariachi look which started around 1930 and is still very prevalent in all parts of Mexico today.  Many legends have been attached to the famous China Poblana outfit. One story says there was an Asian  princess sold as a slave in the city of Puebla. She fell in love with a creole man and created her wedding gown based on the local fashions but decorated with oriental motifs. They say that every 3 months a ship from the Philippines anchored in Acapulco. The aristocratic ladies would buy a textile known as “castor” to make skirts for their female servants, called “China.”  The word is completely disassociated from any Asian background. As the length of this fabric was not enough to reach the floor, an addition of silk was sewn as the top of the skirt to complete the length. In time, the women started

to embroider or apply sequins to highlight the oriental decoration of the fabric. The modern

China Poblana is so heavily outfitted with sequins that the historic “castor” fabric (which is only made in Puebla and Mexico City today) can only be seen if you turn the skirt inside out. Other costumes you might see dancers wearing are ruffled and tiered long skirts in white or a bright color. These skirts may be trimmed in ribbons and lace. Tops tend to be off the shoulder and ruffled, kind of like a peasant blouse. Men commonly wear a Mariachi costume. This costume consists of slim black trousers, usually decorated down to the sides of each leg and an elaborately decorated jacket, finished with a string tie and oversized hat.

If you ever have a chance to visit Mexico City, I encourage you to go to the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. It is internationally famous and one of the finest dance shows you will ever see.  The costumes are amazing! I went to Mexico City and was fortunate enough to see this spectacular show, it was the highlight of my trip. Mexico is famous for this show and with good reason. The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico was founded by a dancer named Amalia Hernandez in 1952. The dance troupe consists of 40 dancers, a mariachi band and 16 other musicians. It is a spectacular and colorful display of Mexican dance and culture. It takes over 600 people behind the scenes to present a show. Amalia Hernandez was a cultural ambassador for Mexico until her death in 2000 at the age of 84. Happily, her grandson Salvador Lopez is the director of the group today and brings this fabulous show to many countries that has performed over 15,000 times with at least 250 performances per year. Definitely a show not to be missed!

Thought Of The Week:

“I dance on the edge of what is knowable and what is not.  I am in rhythm with the Universe.  I choose to live in joy.” – Science of Mind


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website