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.