World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Ballet Folklórico Netzahualcoyotl

First appearance in SF EDF: 2004

Netza Vidal founded Ballet Folklórico Netzahualcoyotl in 1996. Born in Compostela, Nayarit, Mexico, he studied Mexican Folkloric dance at the Escuela de la Danza Mexicana with Jaime Buentello Bazán. For twenty years, he has been an instructor and director of Mexican folkloric dance, beginning his career as dance director at San Rafael High School in Marin County. Vidal is the general and artistic director, leading his company with its own unique style, costume designs, music, and choreography.

The company is currently composed of more than one hundred students from many different cultures. Its mission is to empower the community and to educate the general public by providing a greater understanding and appreciation for Mexican culture and folklore through music, dance, and traditional art forms.


DANCE ORIGIN: Veracruz, Mexico
GENRE: Danza
TITLE: La Danza de Huahuas
DANCERS: Cristina Alvarado, Daniela Alvarado, Catalina Aldana, Crystal Avalos, Ayanna Badias, Nathalie Bautista, Jada Becerra, Lucero Carreño, Zazil Chacon, Natalie Davila, Alexandra Duran, Angela Espinoza, Delia Espinoza, Leslie Espinoza, Alfredo Felix, Leilah Garcia, Daniela Gocobachi, Daniel Gomez, Rocio Lopez, Sofia Lopez, Jacqueline Mares, Christian Mendoza, Juan Carlos Morales, Mia Olivarez, Ana Palomares, Alfredo Ramos, Kimberly Ramos, Denise Rodriguez, Lizeth Rodriguez, Xanat Rodriguez, Miguel Tapia, Karla Toledo, Netza Vidal, Oscar Zamora

Photo by RJ Muna


For indigenous communities of Veracruz—Totonac, Nahua, and Huastec people—La Danza de Huahas is an important folkloric danza, based on the people’s relationship to the solar year and its real and spiritual connection to agricultural life.

The Mexican state of Veracruz is about 20% indigenous-speaking people whose ancestors lived by hunting, fishing, and farming corn, beans, chili peppers, and squash. Their culture was first conquered by Aztecs. When the Spaniards arrived in 1519, about 250,000 people still spoke Totonac dialects.

La Danza de Huahas is ceremonial and impressive, as dancers beat hand drums, stomp boots, and slide forward in intricately patterned lines. Their precision expresses devotion to gods and land, and they summon rain and abundance. The ritual choreography links agricultural patterns to divine aspects of the sky—specifically to the sun and seasonal cycles. Men mount a rotating wooden wheel, and they call forth the spirit of the sun. The wheel represents time’s rotation and the revolution of the universe, the basis of creation and genesis of cosmic life.

This vibrant folkloric danza is famous for its bright headdress made of reeds interwoven with paper and ribbon. In Veracruz, a similar, larger headdress is worn for Danza de Los Quetzales, a ritual representation traced back to ancient Mesoamerica, honoring the sacred quetzal bird, representative of the sun, virility, fertility, and water. That headdress resembles the male quetzal bird’s ruffled crown. In Danza de Huahas, the headdress evokes the sun, another divine messenger from the heavens.

This performance, a premiere for the company, was created by artistic director Netza Vidal based on choreography by Miguel Belez Arceo, founding director of the Ballet Folklórico of the Universidad Veracruzana. Arceo’s mission was to stage folklore with a deep respect for the original canons.


TITLE: Matlachines of Zacatecas
GENRE: Folkloric
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Erik Diaz, Netza Vidal
DANCERS: Gabriela Arellano, Samantha Arellano, Sandra Contreras, Ginna Dassow-Dee, Alexandra Durán Esparza, Angela Espinoza, Delia Espinoza, Leslie Espinoza, Laura Flores, Michelle López, Rocio López, Oswaldo Mares, Stephanie Mares, Daisy Martínez, Bertha Morales, Juan Carlos Morales, Mayra Naranjo, Antonio Palacios, Alejandro Pulido, Stephanie Ramos, Stephanie Raygoza, Maria Elena Rentería, Dennise Rodriguez, Francisca Rodriguez, Xanat Rodriguez, Daniela Sandoval, Dianna Santarosa, Miranda Soto de León, Karla Toledo, Anna Valencia, Jorge Valencia

MUSICIANS: Erik Díaz (drums), Óscar Santarosa (drums), Gabriela Velasco (drums), Netza Vidal (drums)


Matlachines of Zacatecas is a Catholic processional dance as it is performed in the city of Zacatecas to honor the virgin of Guadalupe. The dancers follow a baraguilla, a captain, whose steps and gestures signal commands. Everyone stays in the groove, while crossovers and exchanges shape crosses and circles, creating a footprint of the course. Traditionally a men’s dance, women now frequently dance Matlachines across Mexico and the southwestern U.S.

During special events, dancers perform along pathways and in town squares in indigenous villages. Sometimes dancers weave their steps and patterns for several days—for example during a novenario, a nine-day period of prayer following someone’s death. When a dancer grows tired, a family member takes his or her place. The form and style of the dance shows a mixing of indigenous Mexican and Spanish elements. It’s generally thought to have originated with the conquistadores, as the name is the same as an old Spanish swordfight dance. It’s also described as a morality play triumphing good over evil, Christianity over “pagan” beliefs, with suggestions that the Virgin Mary imagery is modeled after the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. Another version mentions an older indigenous style with concentric circles and a similar spinning in straight lines. And yet another version has the dance named for—and styled after—the Nahuatl malacotzin beetle, an insect that spins. This account says Christian friars found the dance so beautiful they kept it, adding Christian imagery, crosses, and kneeling movements, and used it to attract people to the Christian faith.

Maestro Erik Diaz learned this piece from Don Pedro Sanchez Ventura in Zacatecas in 2011 and created this World Premiere presentation. The company made their costumes, brightening them up for the stage. The direction of a dancer’s sash signifies marriage status, and the overall design signals a dancer’s village or parish. In Zacatecas, Matlachines are dressed with a chamois-like skirt adorned with reeds, sequined religious images, and feather headdress with reed adornments. The dance is accompanied by drums, gourd rattles, and additional rhythms come from the rattling of the reeds on costumes and striking of the three-layered metal-soled leather sandals.



Folklorico NetzaTITLE OF PIECE: FIESTA DEL ESQUITE (Huichol of toasted corn ceremony)
DANCERS: Gabriela Arellano, Pedro Bentacourt, Claudia Cardenas, Gina Dassow, Daniel DeAnda, Everardo Delgado, Yamelyth Farias, Yolanda Figuero, Aurora Garcia, Ivan Guerrero, Daniel Jimenez, Ernesto Moreno, Monique Orozco, Ana Peixotto, Alejandro Pulido, Olivia Ramirez, Daniela Sandoval, Estefani Sandoval, Vanessa Sandoval, Jorge Valencia, Amelia Vega, Netza Vidal, and Marco Vinicio.

Fiesta del Esquite is a representation of the toasted corn ceremony–considered one of the most sacred of the Huichol rituals. It gives thanks to the gods for an abundant harvest and honors the burning of the fields in preparation for a new cycle. In this staged representation of the Fiesta, a shaman is carrying the abuela (grandmother) of the village, for without her the ritual could not begin.

The Huichol costume replicas worn by Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotl are adorned with tradition symbols and designs made from embroidery, applique and painting. Designs are inspired by nature such as eagles, deer, and snakes. The men's hats are decorated with thorns and eagle feathers. Their faces are painted with the ojo de dios (eye of god), which is symbolic of essential cardinal points. The Huichol recognize sacred places in the East in the Pacific Ocean, North in Durango, and South in Jalisco. The ojo de dios is also used as a ritual to welcome new members of the family.

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