Yaqui Deer Dance
This elegant and profound dance symbolizes the
struggle between good and evil, through a confrontation between a sacred
deer and aggressive coyotes and hunters, bringing to mind parallels
of cultural, philosophical, and spiritual struggles as well.
The deer dancer wears a tall mask / headpiece with large antlers,
and the movements of the graceful and noble deer are beautiful and
poignant in the expression of freedom. With elegant jumps, turns of
the head, and proud body movement, the life of the deer is recounted;
traveling through the forest, jumping into the air, grazing in the
meadows and meeting the hunter.
deer soon senses danger as the coyotes draw near, and the dancer's
movements and rhythm suddenly change. The sounds made by the rattles
and objects trimming the deer dancer's garments, and musical instruments,
suggest the noises of the forest. The course of this performance is
traditionally accompanied by a metaphoric commentary, chanted by an
old man of the tribe.
Two coyotes enter the scene wearing masks covering one side of their
faces. Around the waist is a thick leather belt with bells attached;
the legs are wrapped in a rebozo, sarape or robe secured with leather
straps, and the trouser legs are edged with strings of tiny rattles
made of butterfly cocoons filled with pebbles. To accompany the coyotes,
the musicians traditionally used string instruments of European origin,
violins and a harp. The musicians were saluted by the coyote characters
as beings of superior social standing. By contrast, the instruments
that accompany the deer are purely indigenous drums and a five-tone
reed flute. The musicians receive no special respect from the deer
who is the holy animal of the people.
Venado - Dance
of the Deer - was presented by Ensambles
Ballet Folklórico in People Like Me 2002. This is one of the most popular
among the traditional Mexican dances,
and is one of the least altered.
The Yaqui Indians from the state
of Sonora and Sinaloa continue to
execute this dance in a way that
is believed to be almost identical to
the way it was performed before
the arrival of the Spanish.