World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

FESTIVAL DANCERS

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco

DANCE ORIGIN: Mexico
GENRES: Folkloric and Indigenous
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Amanda Almonte
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Zenón Barrón
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1996
Website: www.ensambles-sf.com

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco was founded in 1992 by individuals committed to preserving the tradition of Mexican folk dance, and a mission to promote it with quality and authenticity. Their work showcases how Mexican folklore is a continually evolving dance form based on tradition and ritual that touches performers’ and audiences’ souls. Tours abroad include various states in Mexico and China. In 1999, Ensambles began bringing its own productions and original pieces to the stage with extraordinary success.

2016 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: Mexico
GENRE: Folkloric (Nayarit)
TITLE: Danza Huichol; Sones Nayaritas
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Zenón Barrón
DANCERS: Maria Anaya, Salvador Arellano, Ariana Barraza, Meredith Belany, Marisela Benavides, Manuel Cuellar, Mayra Cuevas, Linda Gamino, Monica Giese, Juan Gil, Natalie Hernandez, Alejandro Ledesma, Priscilla Lopez, Claudia Martinez, David Martinez, Christian Ortega, Jeannette Quintana, Raul Ramos, Erik Rubio, Viviana Ruiz, Mario Sosa, Lupita Troncoso
MUSICIANS: Vinic-Kay (La Gente y El Canto): Zenón Barrón (drum), Fernanda Bustamante (violin), Manuel Constancio (guitar), Kyla Danish (violin), José Roberto Hernández (guitar/vihuela)

Photo by Mark Muntean

WORLD PREMIERE

The state of Nayarit, on Mexico’s lush central Pacific coast, is known for sugar cane, tobacco, mango, fourteen varieties of bananas, and the world’s tallest corn. From this fertile region, Ensambles presented two distinct forms of dance in this performance: Danza Huichol and Sones Nayaritas.

Ojos de Dios is a ceremonial dance from indigenous Huichol living in the remote Sierra Madre, adapted in 2015 by Artistic Director Zenón Barrón. The Huichol are indigenous to Mexico, related to the Aztecs, and their name means “healer” or “prophet.” Their deep reverence for nature, place, and the elements is reflected in important symbolism. Dancers’ faces are painted with the Ojo de Dios, the Eye of God. Its four corners symbolize sacred cardinal points, as the Huichol hold sacred places in the East, in the Pacific Ocean in the West, Durango in the North, and Jalisco in the South. The costumes are Huichol replicas, with eagles, deer, and snakes embroidered, appliqued, and painted. The men’s hats are decorated with thorns and eagle feathers.

Zenón tells us, “Every year, the Huichol people reenact their history by remembering and repeating ancient ceremonies. Their peyote-corn traditions bring the wisdom of the old ones to each new generation. Dancers embark on a visionary journey, playing roles and temporarily losing their human identities to become living ancestor-deities. They are guided by spirit guides of the Huichol shamans, mostly animal allies such as wolves or deer. Kauyumari (Our Brother Deer) is considered the most significant guide, a guiding energy when the shaman is in a trance.”

The second dance, Sones Nayaritas, presented Mexican rural melodies called sones. These embody the joyful expression of the mountain region fiesta, the excitement of coming of age, and the proud spirit of the mestizo—Mexico’s mixed culture of indigenous Mexican, Spanish, and African. The sones from Nayarit are mostly anonymous: an authentic popular expression, and there’s a strong indigenous influence, both in music and in the execution of the steps.

2015 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: Oaxaca, Mexico
GENRE:
Folkloric
TITLE:
Mosaico Oaxaqueño: Flor de Piña; Danza de Diablos; Chilena Oaxaqueña
CHOREOGRAPHER
: Zenón Barrón
DANCERS:
Salvador Arellano, Guadalupe Flores Aguilera, Ariana Barraza, Meredith Belany, Maricela Benavides, Marco Castellano, Manuel Cuellar, Mayra Cuevas, Arturo Flores, Linda Gamino, Jesus Gomez, Bella Gonzalez, Fiona Gray, Natalie Hernandez, Alejandro Ledesma, Priscilla Lopez, Claudia Martinez, Christian Ortega, Jeannette Quintana, Mario Sosa, Guadalupe Troncoso

Mosaico Oaxaqueño is a mosaic-like collection of dances from Oaxaca, Mexico’s southern state. The forms are intricately diverse, evolving over four hundred years within Oaxaca’s cultural communities—indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec, Spanish, and African.

The first dance, Flor de Piña – Pineapple Flower – is from Tuxtepec. This choreography was first performed in 1958, created by art teacher Paulina Solis to represent Tuxtepec at the famous Guelaguetza Festival. The dancers celebrate traditions (and famous fruits) of the lush tropical region. The dancers’ rectangular hand-woven tunics are called huipil. Their intricate flower and bird designs tell of a woman’s life—her origins, status, and sometimes even her employment.

Next, Danza De Diablos – Dance of the Devils – is from Collantes de Oaxaca, a piece that shows a true merging of African, ancient Mexican, and Spanish Catholic rites. (It also shows the evolution of Day of the Dead celebrations very much alive today.) Wooden masks, horns, and white pony tails suggest colonial landlords, and the dignified style dates to Mexico’s colonial era, when enslaved Africans labored in Spanish haciendas. The form of the dance is believed to have originated in Africa: it’s been linked to ceremonies entreating the god Ruja for liberation, and it’s similar to Yoruba masked dances, forms of ancestor reverence that featured flogging and feasts for the dead. The female figure, Maringuilla, carries a doll to represent her child.

The final dance, Chilena Oaxaqueña, is from Santiago Pinotepa Nacional, on La Costa Chica in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. The name Chilena tells about the origin of the dance: Chilean sailors brought their beloved cueca or zamacueca form to Mexico, and it was quickly adapted by Mestizo Mexican communities. The lively movements pantomime a flirtation. The lady flutters her dress seductively, as the men watch every move. The musical form is the sone, songs with rhyming couplets invented on the spot.

¿Eres cubana?                        Are you Cuban?
No soy cubana.                       No, I am not Cuban.
¿Eres jarocha?                        Are you Jarocha?
No soy jarocha.                      No, I am not Jarocha.
¿Qué quiere ser mi mai?          What do you want to be?
Soy mariposa.                         I am a butterfly

Artistic Director Zénon Barrón studied these dances in Mexico. He adapted them for Ensambles’ 20th anniversary, and taught them to the dancers. The music is played on violin, guitar, cajón box drum, and harp.

 

2012 PERFORMANCE

TITLES: La Morena, Café con Pan, Morena del Alma Mia, Fandango
GENRE:
Folkloric
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Jose Roberto Hernandez
DANCERS: Guadalupe Aguilar, Maria Anaya, Salvador Arellano, Meredith Belany, Maricela Benavides, Marco Castellanos, Manuel Cuellar, Diana Chavez, Mayra Cuevas, Arturo Flores, isela Galves Tovar, Antonio Gomez, Claudia Gomez, Jesus Gomez, Edgar Lepe. Maria Luna, Priscilla Lopez, Christene Pinter, Jeannette Quintana, Raul Ramos, Mario Sosa, Juan Carlos Tovar, Guadalupe Troncoso, Sandra Valdez
MUSICIANS:
Grupo Experimental de Musica Folklorica Vinic-Kay (la gente y el canto):Jose Roberto Hernandez (jarana), Zenón Barrón (cajón and percussion), Fernanda Bustamante (violin), Manuel Constancio (guitar), Miguel Martinez (jarana), Pedro Rosales (cajón and percussion) 

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco performs a suite of dances in honor of the pueblo Yanga Veracruz in Southeastern Mexico. Together, these dances narrate the rhythms of village life from working in the fields to a town square celebration.

La Morena (The Dark-Skinned Lady), is an all-female dance about women working in the fields. The men play the wooden cajón box drum, while the women dance joyfully to share their pleasure and celebrate the fruits of their labors. The women’s skirts evoke the very essence of life as they wrap and unfurl with each graceful turn throughout the dynamic choreography.

Café con Pan tells the story of a typical work day to the sounds of jarana, cajónes, and large drums. After work, villagers gather in the square and show off their finery: the women in floral skirts and flowers, and the men in their best white shirts.

The remaining songs and dances in the suite showcase the parties called fandango campesinos—family celebrations after a long day of work. The community gathers to share traditional dances and songs. The dancers exhibit dynamic and complex zapedado footwork and the stirring songs—Fandango and Morena del Alma Miá—bring to life the campesinos of Veracruz.

Choreographer Zenón Barrón created this suite to honor the marginalized history and cultural heritage of African slaves brought to Mexico by the Spanish: to remind contemporary audiences that their descendants live in Mexico and their heritage is an important and vital part of Mexico’s rich culture. (Zenón refers to Africa as Mexico’s “third root”, the first two roots being indigenous and Spanish influences.) The suite includes complex polyrhythms indigenous to West Africa as well as African musical instruments such as the marimbol, the cajón, the bote, and the quijada de burro.

2009 PERFORMANCE

Title: Fiesta del Cristo Negro de San Román
Genre: Campeche
Maestra: Victoria Mendoza
Dancers:
Lupe Aguilera, Maria Anaya, Salvador Arellano, Zenón Barrón, Maricela Benavides, Luis Cel, Diana Chavez, Jesus Cortes, Hugo Flores, Isela Galvez , Monica Giese, Jesus Gomez, Ashley Hernandez, David Herrera, Vanessa Lopez, Wilfredo Manalo, Norberto Martinez, Juan Orosco, Andrea Parber, Daniela Rueda, Jordan Salvador, Vanessa Sanches, Nayeli Silva, Karla Toledo, Juan Carlos Tovar, Elena Trejo, Lupita Troncoso, Sandra Valadez
Musicians:
Zenón Barrón (guiro), Juan Caballos (clarinet), Sergio Duran (timbales), Miguel Corea (Director), Cecila Pena Covea (trombon), Elijah Probst (clarinet)

When Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula was ravaged by locusts in the mid-1500s, the people of Villa de Campeche prayed for relief. They erected a small church in honor of San Román Mártir (St. Roman Martyr) and imported a Black Christ statue from Italy. Today, the state of Campeche is known for the deep faith of its people, and the architectural beauty of Iglesia del Cristo Negro de San Román (Church of the Black Christ of Saint Roman) draws many visitors and pilgrims.  

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco performs four dances from a centuries-old festival that honors el Cristo Negro de San Román. Zenón Barrón choreographed the piece for today's stage. He learned the dances from Maestra Victoria Mendoza, a native of Campeche. As in many American dance forms, these Campeche folklórico dances—described in order below—emerged from indigenous dance forms, dances of Spanish colonialists, and movements and rhythms from displaced Africans.

The first dance, Sarao Campechano, exudes an air of old Spain, having been a favorite at celebrations by the elite Spanish class on large colonial estates.

Jarabe Cubano is a short energetic dance set to music written in six octets. Partners alternate sets of zapateado (complex Spanish footwork patterns) as they execute rapid turns.

Baile del Almud is a dance with pre-Hispanic (Maya) roots. The dancers perform on top of a small wooden box called almud, once used by indigenous communities to measure produce at the market. In a 6/8 rhythm, the dancers perform intricate zapateo: sets of complex percussive footwork with African origins and Spanish influence.

Jarabe Criollo is from the 18th century. The jarabe is a traditional song form in mariachi music, and this jarabe is one of the oldest known in Mexico. The dancers' footwork imitates the church bells that assemble the faithful and joyful followers of the Cristo Negro de San Román.

The dancers are in traditional dress, showing indigenous and Spanish influences: the women's huipil tunic, hand-embroidered blouse, Spanish-brocade skirt and shawl, and sandals from Spain’s Moorish past; and the men's white guayabera (a style that possibly originated in Maya Yucatán), with black pants, red silk band, and Spanish boots. The music is performed by a jaranera orchestra, with clarinet, trumpet, tuba, güiro (Caribbean gourd scraper), and trombón.

2009 PERFORMANCE

TITLE: Royal Court of the Ancient Maya
GENRE: Maya
Dancers: Lupe Aguilera, Maria Anaya, Salvador Arellano, Zenón Barrón, Maricela Benavides, Luis Cel, Diana Chavez, Jesus Cortes, Hugo Flores, Isela Galvez , Monica Giese, Jesus Gomez, Ashley Hernandez, David Herrera, Vanessa Lopez, Wilfredo Manalo, Norberto Martinez, Juan Orosco, Andrea Parber, Daniela Rueda, Jordan Salvador, Vanessa Sanches, Nayeli Silva, Karla Toledo, Juan Carlos Tovar, Elena Trejo, Lupita Troncoso, Sandra Valadez 

In honor of People Like Me's 15th Anniversary (World Arts West's arts education program), Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco presents a partial reprise of Royal Court of the Ancient Maya in the abbreviated version of Return of the Sun, the story of Amaterasu, the Japanese Sun Goddess.

The story opens in an ancient time when people lived together in contentment. Ensambles Ballet Folklórico portrays a thriving civilization. Zenón Barrón's original choreography is based on wall paintings from the Temple of the Murals, Bonampak Pyramids, in Chiapas, Mexico. Grand frescoes, painted in about 790 A.D., show life-sized scenes of ancient Mayan royalty, including ceremonial costumes and gestures. Ensembles bases their fierce and joyful presentation on in-depth research of Maya hieroglyphs, frescoes, bas-relief carvings, and inscriptions. Please see the 2008 Performance information below for details of costuming and the original EDF staging of the piece.  

2008 PERFORMANCE

TITLE: Royal Court of the Ancient Maya
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/
CHOREOGRAPHER:
Zenón Barrón
DANCERS:
Nydia Algazzali, Maria Anaya, Salvador Arellano, Maricela Benavides, Luis Cel, Diana Chavez, Jesús Cortés, Hugo Flores, Isela Galvez, Mónica Giese, Jesús Gomez, Ashley Hernández, David Herrera, Monica Ibarra, Maria Luna, Wilfredo Manalo, Juan Orosco, Carlos Padilla, Jordan Salvador, Patricia Salvador, Karla Toledo, Juan Carlos Tovar, Judy Elena Trejo, Lupita Troncoso, Crus Vidal
MUSICIANS:
Zenón Barrón, Fernanda Bustamante, José Roberto Hernández, Jesús Martínez, Miguel Martínez, Silvestre Martínez

The Mayans were one of Mexico's oldest pre-Hispanic civilizations. The civilization reached its peak before the rise of Aztec culture, and then it mysteriously disappeared, leaving only a few codices (hieroglyphic books) and abandoned temples. The artistic achievements of the Maya are startling to modern anthropologists, both for their sophistication and for their fascinating similarities to the art of ancient eastern civilizations.

The ancient Mayan site of Bonampak—Painted Wall—lies in the Mexican state of Chiapas, close to the Guatemalan border. It houses the Temple of the Murals, with frescoes painted around 790 BCE. This site was still used for worship by indigenous Mayans when it was "discovered" 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 robing 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.

Ensambles’ 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 Mayan culture, history, legend, religion, and aesthetics. He studied Mayan hieroglyph, fresco, bas-relief carvings, 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 Royal Court of the Ancient Maya. This dance brings to life the rich culture of Mexican ancestry, and shows how Maya maintained high mandates within their community.

The music was composed for this choreography by José Roberto Hernández from Tabasco, Mexico, using instruments seen in Bonampak frescoes, including the flauta (flute), big drums called cantaros, water gourds, and rain sticks.

The piece opens with the La Corte Maya Ceremonial—The Royal Court of the Ancient Maya—as the king and his warriors arrive at the Palace. In the next piece, Danza de Princesas y Doncellas, princesses and palace maids eagerly wait to present the king with offerings and dance. The princess is elected queen and honored as royalty. Then, in Danza de Guerreros y Doncellas and Los Reyes y Su Corte the warriors enact a ritual, and the dancers celebrate a great wedding ceremony for the king and the chosen princess.

 

2007 PERFORMANCE

TITLE: Sones de Tierra Caliente de Apatzingan
DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Zenón Barrón
DANCERS: Dominique Adams, Maria Anaya, Salvador Arellano, Maricela Benavides, Luis Cel, Hugo Flores, Isela Galvez, Monica Giese, Ashley Hernandez, Lorenzo Hernandez, Maria Luna, Wilfredo Manalo, Jesusa Nino, Juan Orosco, Carlos Padilla, Susana Saenz, Jenna Salvador, Jordan Salvador, Juan Carlos Tovar, Lupita Troncoso, Netzahualcoyotl Vidal
MUSICIANS: Saul Sierra Bajo (sexto), Zenón Barrón (cajón), Fernanda Bustamente (violin), Nydia Gonzalez (arpa), Jose Roberto Hernandez (vihuela)

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco performs a suite of three sones from Apatzingan. In Mexico a son is a lively social form of music incorporating stringed instruments, poetic, anecdotal songs, and energetic dance. Sones de Tierra Caliente de Apatzingan begins with the son, El Cura de Apatzingan, about a priest of a church that does not want to console the faithful for their indiscretions with the women of the town. The second piece, El Gusto Federal, describes the struggle for freedom between the foreigners and the indigenous people of the town of San Juan Guetamo. Political and religious values are imbedded within the poetry of the song. The lyrics in the final piece, El Son de la Morisqueta, express the pride the people of Apatzingan have towards their land and their rich cuisine. The area is abundant with roses and lemon trees, and morisqueta is a kind of Spanish rice dish often made with onions, chorizo, and tomatoes.

The sones are reminiscent of the flamenco and Andalusian dances that came with the European colonizers from Andalusia, Spain. The musical ensemble is known as a conjunto de arpa grande because the most significant instrument in the group is the large 35-stringed harp. During the performance it is customary for one of the musicians to use the harp’s resonance box as a percussion instrument, adding to the dramatic effect of the performance.

2006 PERFORMANCE

TITLE OF PIECE: Danza de los Negritos
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Zenón Barrón
DANCERS: Salvador Arellano, David Ayala, Maricela Benavides, Luis Cel, Hugo Flores, Jesus Gomez, Maria Luna, Wilfredo Manalo, Omar Morales, Juan Orozco, Netzahualcoyotl Vidal
PROCESSION: Eric Camacho, Diana Chavez, Jose Chavez, Leticia Chavez, Rosario Chavez, Monica Giese, Amelia Gomez, Jose Gomez, Maura B. Gomez
MUSICIANS: Fernanda Bustamante (Violin & Sea Shells), Jose Roberto Hernandez (Flute & Jarana), Jesus Martinez (Turtle Shell), Silvestre Martinez (Clay Pot)

Beginning in the village church, the Corpus Christi procession parades through the town stopping at fruit adorned altars throughout the neighborhood. Once returning back to the Church, the majordomo (manager) calls the festivities to begin with the Danza de Los Negritos, a mesmerizing quadrille dance originally performed by African slaves in the region during the 16th century. Interpretations of several indigenous legends are enacted and integrated into this precise dance. Specific ritual events and character portrayals are depicted, including the killing of the quetzal serpent, the whipping of the caporal (foreman), the jesting of the maringuilla or “mother of the sick” (a man dressed in white as a woman) and the masked huehe (old man).

2005 PERFORMANCE

TITLE OF PIECE: Peregrinaje, Jueves Santo, Danza de Agradecimiento, Viernes Santo
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR:
Zenón Barrón
DANCERS: Salvador Arellano, Maria Anaya, Ines Barbosa, Maricela Benavides, Luis Cel, Isela Galvez, Socorro Galvez, Jesus Gomez, Monica Giese, Monica Ibarra, Maria Luna, Wilfredo Manalo, Norberto Martinez, Jesusa Niño, Juan Orosco, Monique Orozco, Alejandro Pulido, Ramon Ramirez, Maricela Santos, Juan Carlos Tovar, Netza Vidal, Raymond Zamarripa
MUSICIANS: Zenón Barrón (drum), Miguel Martinez (flute), Gerardo Moreno (violin)

After a week of preparation for the coming festivities, the crowds disperse on Holy Thursday to listen in the darkness to hypnotic drum beats. The governor of the Tarahumaras gives the order to commence the danzas. A ritual honoring the four cardinal points opens the festivities. The women participate in a procession at the church's altar on Thursday and Friday only. The men dance for thirty continuous hours offering dances to the Sun and Moon, and asking for blessings for a good harvest, a healthy family and newborn children.

Peregrinaje, represents the pilgrimage occurring before the spiritual presentation begins. Jueves Santo is one of the several days of deep worship, and similar to Lent, certain foods and activities are sacrificed. Danza de Agradecimiento is a women’s dance where the people give thanks to what they have been given throughout the year. The suite ends with Viernes Santo representing another day of atonement.

2004 PERFORMANCE

TITLE OF PIECE: El Rojo y El Azul, La Feria, La Flor de Maiz, El Tigre
CHOREOGRAPHY: Norberto Martinez
DANCERS: Salvador Arellano, Maricela Benavides, Ines Barbosa, Rashelle Casillas Isela Galvez, Monica Giese, Jesus Gomez, Monica Ibarra, Maria Luna, Wilfredo Manalo, Norberto Martinez, Adrian Nuñez, Maricela Santos, Alma Savinon, Juan Carlos Tovar , Pedro Urista, Netzahualcoyotl Vidal
MUSICIANS: Zenón Barrón (Tambor "drum"), Ernesto Hernandez Olmos (Tambor "drum"), Miguel Martinez (Flauta "flute"), Silvestre Martinez (Escarapacho), and Jose Roberto Hernandez ("Tambor" drum)

In the 2004 Festival, Ensambles performed a suite of four dances in the Zapateado Tabasqueño style. This is the most representative dance of the state of Tabasco and has roots in the three cultures that gave form to the mestizo population of today's Mexico: the Indian, the Spanish and the African. It is a unique style of music and movement that appears nowhere else in Mexico.

The Tabasqueño style is fast and complex, joyful and uplifting, as it reflects the personality traits of the populations that gave it birth. The most characteristic gesture is a fast crossing of one foot at regular intervals during the dance. Included in Ensambles' presentation is a dance portraying a festive thanksgiving gathering following the harvest of the crops. The carefully constructed costumes worn by the company represent the daily dress worn in by-gone times.

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