World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Los Danzantes de Aztlán de Fresno State

GENRE: Folkloric
First appearance in SF EDF: 2014

Los Danzantes de Aztlán de Fresno State University was founded in 1970 in the Department of Chicano and Latin American Studies by Professor Ernesto Martinez and is currently directed by Dr. Victor Torres. The vibrant Danzantes offer a spectacular and colorful expression of Mexican regional dances, and consistently earns top awards in national and international folkloric dance
competitions. As a result of their energetic, professional presentations, the group has performed in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival in 2014, 2016, and 2018, and are recognized as Official Ambassadors of the University.


DANCE ORIGIN: Hidalgo, Mexico
GENRE: Folkloric (Huapangos)
TITLE: Boda Hidalguense-Estilo Huasteca
CHOREOGRAPHER: Professor Alfredo Luna
ASSISTANTS: Mayra Aceves, Graciela Soto (costumes), Sylvia Torres (makeup)
DANCERS: Ernesto Aguirre, Kimberly Alvarado, Mitchell N. Castro, Karen Hernandez, Stephanie Martinez, Vanessa Nañez, Tony Quesada, Gil Ramirez, Lupita Romo Ramirez, Diana Rocha, Auston Romo, Jasmine Stephens, Benny Thongsoane, Chabeli Torres, Emilio Torres, Lauren Valencia, Mario Vasquez, Pader Vue
MUSICIANS: Hermanos Herrera: Jorge Andres Herrera (violin, lead vocals), Luis Albino Herrera (huapanguera, vocals), Miguel Antonio Herrera (jarana, vocals)


Boda Hidalguense-Estilo Huasteca is a lively fiesta, a Hidalgo Wedding-Huasteca Style. The music and dance comes from the Huasteca, a Nahua-speaking cultural group living in the tropical, forested mountain region of Huejutla, in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.

El Rebozo showcases the beautiful and useful rebozo shawl, worn by many indigenous and mestizo women throughout Mexico: across the shoulder to carry firewood or babies; crossed in front during a revolution; or twisted into a cushion to carry water on the head or to block the sun. Here, the wedding couple is formally united, and the song is from the groom:
Beautiful Morena, I need you to know that I love you because you are exquisite and beautiful/I would like to know if you love me passionately/ Tell me, sweetheart, if you’ll correspond my love/I’ll be blessed when you, Prieta of my soul, cover me with your rebozo.

Then Corre Caballo—Run Horse—honors the animal indispensible to farming and ranching. The band sings of horses running beautifully, leaping over Don Silvero's fence, as male dancers transform to horses and the women corral them. The third song is La Levita, a popular huapango about love between soldiers and women in Mexico's Revolution.

The form is son huasteca, a robust, vigorous music/dance fusion from indigenous Nahua culture and Mexico's Andalusian and African heritage. The musicians are the sibling group Hermanos Herrera, with a new album on Smithsonian Folkways; they specialize in this form. They play violin, jarana guitar, and deep-bodied huapanguera. The singer's high falsetto creates the unique son huasteca sound, both melancholic and jubilant. The dance huapango huasteca includes lifted legs, bouncing off toes, energetic footwork combinations sounding percussion, and a 3-count step—zapateado de tres—where feet graze the ground.

The Huasteca wear everyday poplin or muslin clothing for dance. Women wear blouses with floral embroidery; skirts with ribbon and lace; and fiesta-wear of jacquard/brocade. The men wear a long-sleeve shirt with embroidery and a handkerchief; or formal drill pants, embroidered shirt, and palm leaf hat.


DANCE ORIGIN: Veracruz, Mexico
GENRE: Traditional (Coyutla)
TITLE: Boda Coyuteca: Sones, Huapangos, and Alegrias from Coyutla
CHOREOGRAPHER: Professor Alfredo Luna Santiago
ASSISTANTS: Mayra Aceves, Ashley Avalos, Karen Hernandez, Juvenal Moctezuma
DANCERS: Mayra Aceves, Ernesto Aguirre, Vanessa Arce, Ashley Avalos, Mayra Cano, Nicholas Castro, Isabel Frutis, Diana Garcia, Karen Hernandez, Stephanie Martinez, Juvenal Moctezuma, Estevan Parra, Gil Ramirez, Jesse Rodriguez, Osvaldo Rodriguez, Auston Romo, Lorenzo Taja, Benny Thongoanse, Chabeli Torres, Emilio Torres, Mario Vasquez, Pader Vue

Photo by Mark Muntean

Twenty-two lively dancers from Los Danzantes present Sones, Huapangos, and Alegrias from Coyutla, dances from the Totonicapán region of Veracruz. These dances are of Indio-mestizo (Indigenous-Spanish-African) origin and are often sung in the Totonacan language.

The town of Coyutla, historically traced to 1777, is nestled in the Sierras of central Veracruz, and often called La Perla de la Sierra, the Pearl of the Sierra. Today, there’s a wedding in town, and—as the artistic director tells us—“The men dance gallantly with a beer in hand and the women dance in their beautiful quexquen garments.” At Coyutlan weddings, husbands and wives dance with different partners, because they see each other every day. This custom is reflected here, as the bride and groom move around the dance floor.

The dancing begins with two huapangos. The first is La Escoba—The Broom. It’s based on a Totonaca maxim—from an old folktale—that if you allow a woman to sweep your feet, you’ll be destined to marry a widow or a divorcee. The women dance with brooms and the men jump to avoid them.

The second is Xanath, a love song named for a flower in Totonacan language. The dancers’ strong footwork shows the enthusiastic and vigorous style of a Coyutlan fiesta. The final dance is La Banda, the town’s favorite, trademark alegria. One couple ties a long sash into a bow with their feet, a bow that binds the bride and groom in new unity.

Coyutla is close to the Huasteca regions of Veracruz and the state of Puebla, so two indigenous cultures—Nahuatl and Totonaca—are reflected in its language and musical traditions. A mestizo-indigenous fusion enriches and strengthens the local music and dance culture in three musical genres: Sones Coyutecos, Sones Huapangos, and ceremonial music associated with religious or cultural rituals. Los Danzantes de Aztlán de Fresno State was proud to present the original work of native Totonacan Professor Alfredo Luna Santiago, primary researcher and choreographer of this material, for the first time in the US in 2015.

The costumes are traditional and currently worn by Totonaca women in the town of Coyutla. Many of the beautiful quexquen ponchos are embroidered with flowering branches, representing family trees. Women make this garment for their weddings and will also wear them when they are buried. The colored ribbons signify: sky (blue), mother earth (green), purity (white), mourning (purple), maize (yellow), fertility/menstruation (red), and devotion to the Virgin Mary (pink).


DANCE ORIGIN: Baja California Norte, Mexico
TITLE: No Te Rajes Tijuana; La Vaquerita de mi Vida; Maria Chuchena; La Loba Del Mal; Arreando Las Vacas
GENRE: Calabaceados
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Cecilio Cordero Loaiza, Dr. Victor Torres
DANCERS: Mayra Aceves, Ashley Avalos, Nicholas Castro, Diana Garcia, Karen Hernandez, Ivan Medina, Juvenal Moctezuma, Sarahy Ocampo, Estevan Parra, Marlene Perez, Osvaldo Rodriguez, Guadalupe Romo, Danielle Sermeno, Jasmine Stephens, Lorenzo Taja, Sonya Taja, Benny Thongsaone, Emilio Torres, Mario Vasquez

Since the 1950s, quick-footed cowboys have exulted in the Calabaceado, a unique dance from La Mísion, Ensenada, Baja California. Originally called the vaquero (cowboy) dance, it’s a vigorous meld of European polka and cattle-ranch choreography—a creation from local cowboys who imitated their livestock. The dance became fashionable as a huapango norteño, a style danced on a resounding wooden platform to a three-piece band. Today, Los Danzantes demonstrates their skill and stamina with horse-like spins and kicks, and the manly bucking of bulls.

This dance often starts up spontaneously during a fiesta, and it’s a competition. Dancers are encouraged to be inventive, as long as they show rigor and energy, and do the fundamental patada kicks and leg twirling. These days—in Mexico and on our stage—the cowgirls also join the party! The stage is bucking and jumping as Los Danzantes presents an award-winning suite.

Dances are in this order:

No Te Rajes Tijuana (Don’t Back Down Tijuana), expressing a homegrown pride in Mexico’s border town.

La Vaquerita de mi Vida (The Little Cowgirl of my Life), about a vaquero cowboy trying to win his girl.

Maria Chuchena, praising a woman with a fabulous work ethic. Of course she’s pursued by suitors with flowery language.

La Loba del Mal (The Bad Wolf)
, about a promiscuous woman on the prowl.

Arreando Las Vacas (Herding Cattle), celebrating the work of the northern Mexico’s Vaquero cowboy.

Los Danzantes learned the suite in Mexico and Fresno from Maestro Cecilio Cordero Loaiza of Compañia de Danza Ticuan. The vaquero/western music is based on the polka, schotis, and redova brought to northern Mexico by European immigrants. Its fast-paced 6/8 tunes are played by a conjunto norteño, the band of accordion, snare drum, and requinto guitar. The dress is western with a twist: here the women also wear the traditionally-male outfit: with cowboy hat, leather vest, plaid western shirt, and pointed boots.

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