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Latin America: Mexico: Michoacán

Sones Antiguos

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Los Viejitos, Los Sembradores
Sonajas (rattle dances), Jarabes, and Diana
Cascada de Flores
Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco
Instruments Used

Michoacán, a land of beautiful, sunny weather, was immediately settled by the newcomers, which explains how the dances called "Sones" are "mestizos," (mixed in origin: Spanish/Indigenous). The P'urhepecha people, who inhabit the northern region, are cradled in the mountains surrounding Lake Patzcuaro.

La pirekua (meaning "song") is the poetic expression of the P'urhepecha people, celebrating their lives and appreciating the beauty that surrounds them and sustains them. They are interpreted by the pirericha (singers), singing solo or in duet, in harmonies of thirds or sixths, and are generally accompanied by guitars playing abajeños (Fast tempo in 6/8 time). Here is an example of a pirekua translated into English, called "Nana Chuchita," which praises this giver of life, Maria Chuchita:

The instruments used for these abajeños are the Violin, the guitar or vihuela (a smaller, higher-pitched guitar) and bass, all of which demonstrate Spanish influence. It could be said that the huaraches, which are the sandals that the dancers wear, are musical instruments as well, since the footwork is an absolutely essential part of this music. However, though the musical instruments are influenced by the Spanish, the sandals, the dance, the mask, the humor and vitality are ancient, and purely P'urhepecha.

Esperanza Del Valle DancersCascada de Flores (translated as Waterfall of flowers) presented a humble "sprinkle" of dance and song from the beautiful P'urhepecha area in the state of Michoacán, for the San Jose performances of People Like Me 2000. Their medley consisted of a song (pirekua) and two dances: La Danza de Los Viejitos (Dance of the old men), which was also danced with masks, and Los Sembradores (those who sow seeds).

"La Danza de los Viejitos" is an ancient tradition of the P'urepecha. It is "the dance of the little old men" that was done even before the Spanish arrived to México. There are hundreds of regional variations of this dance! It is usually performed by the youth, who imitate older people with very humorous movements and masks, dancing heavy, fairly difficult footwork while bending over, using a cane. Of course, as dancers, they are not making fun of older people, but honoring them. In México, elders are the center of the community; people go to them when they have difficulties, and appreciate them for their wisdom and experience. This dance is a way for the youth to show their respect.

Ensambles Ballet FolkloricoIn People Like Me 2000, Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco performed dances from the warm and tropical region of Michoacán called Apatzingan, where the folk songs and dances ideally celebrate their happiness, and a deep connection to life and nature.

The dances and songs they presented are "Sonajas" (rattle dances), Jarabes or Jarabillos, and Diana, which are all known as Sones antiguos de Michoacán, (Old traditional songs of Michoacán). The scenes that we see in these sones antiguos are based on the celebration of the harvest, joy and thanksgiving for the work that has been completed. This explains the dancers' motives for their movements expressing gladness and freedom. These dances and music could be witnessed during the celebration to the "Virgin de Acahuato," the patron saint, celebrated on February 2, or during the feria de Apatzingán. Sones antiguos de Michoacán have sounds and footwork called zapateo influenced by the jota and sarabanda from Spain. The zapateo is done by stamping the feet in time with the music. The jarabes also contain descansos (rests) in the music and dance, at which time the music slows down and the zapateo is replaced by walking gracefully in time with the music. For stage and choreographic purposes, the walking is done by more elaborate movements of the body, including faldeo (skirt movements), with barefoot girls in swirling skirts keeping time to the lilting melodies.


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