World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

FESTIVAL DANCERS

Los Danzantes de Aztlán de Fresno State

NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: Mexico
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Dr. Victor Torres
First appearance in SF EDF: 2014
Website: danzantesdeaztlan.org

Los Danzantes de Aztlán Mexican Dance program was founded in 1970 in the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department of California State University, Fresno. Utilizing beautiful, authentic costumes and precise dance execution, the company has been a success with audiences wherever it has performed. Currently directed by Dr. Victor Torres, the group has consistently earned top awards at international folkloric dance competitions (in Mexico and in the US). They have performed in Spain, Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and Washington and are the only Mexican folkloric dance group in the CSU system to be recognized as an official ambassador of the University.

2016 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: Veracruz, Mexico
GENRE: Traditional (Coyutla)
TITLE: Boda Coyuteca: Sones, Huapangos, and Alegrias from Coyutla
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Dr. Victor Torres
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).

2014 PERFORMANCE

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
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Dr. Victor Torres
ASSISTANT ARTISTIC DIRECTORS: Ray Ramirez III, Guadalupe Romo
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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