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Latin America: Mexico
Mexican Regional Dance

Maya

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
La Corte Maya Ceremonial - The Royal Court of the Ancient Maya
Performers
Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco
Instruments Used
Cantaro
Flute
Gourd
Rainstick

The Maya were one of Mexico’s oldest pre-Hispanic civilizations. The civilization reached its peak before the rise of the Aztec culture. Artifacts such as codicies (hieroglyphic books) and temples were discovered. The artistic achievements of the Maya are startling to modern anthropologists, both for their sophistication and for their fascinating similarities to the art of the ancient eastern civilizations.

The ancient Maya site of Bonampak – Painted Wall- lies in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Mexico, close to the Guatemalan border. It houses the Temple of Murals, with frescoes painted around 790 BCE. This site was still used for worship by indeigenouts Maya when it was “uncovered” in 1946 and since then, its stunning murals have been documented, photographed and reproduced life-sized. Three rooms of paintings show us what life was like for the ancient Maya: there are images of warriors at battle; of the robbing of priests and nobles; of a ceremony to mark a child as a noble heir; of a grand orchestra of musicians and instruments; and of a ceremony with dancers in fine costumes wearing masks of god. Hieroglyphic text dates the scene and gives the names of participants.

Dance from the Maya civilization, or Pre-Columbian period was largely seen as a medium through which humans interacted with the supernatural. It is characterized by trances, depictions of gods and spirits, connections to animals and their behaviors, and the portrayal of the force of natural elements. Traditional Maya dancing represented the relationship between man and the gods, and often included sacrifices.

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco performs Maya for People Like Me 2009. Their fierce and joyful presentation is Artistic Director, Zenón Barrón’s choreography, based on wall paintings from the pyramid of Bonampak. Barrón spent two years researching Maya culture, history, legend, religion, and aesthetics. He studied Maya hieroglyphics, frescoes, bas-relief carvings, and inscriptions; and looked at drawings and descriptions from the first Spanish writers of the colonial period. Then he defined characters and dramatic situations, designed costumes, and synthesized his research into folklórico ballet – to stage this elaborate re-creation of the La Corte Maya Ceremonial - The Royal Court of the Ancient Maya.

 



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