Many times we believe that the Mexican folklorico dances that we perform have a long, long history. In reality, many times the costumes, music, and dance steps are recent creations but are thought of as ancient. Eric Hobsbawn in his classic text “Inventing Traditions” (1983) coins this term to refer to “traditions actually invented, constructed and formally instituted and those emerging in a less easily traceable manner within a brief and date-able period-a matter of a few years perhaps- and establishing themselves with great rapidity (1).” He notes that these invented traditions are practices with a given set of rules, rituals, that are repeated and that are thought to have a long history but in actuality are very recent (1). Many of our Mexican Folklorico costumes, music, and dances fall under this definition of invented traditions. I argue that many folklorico dances are thought to be old traditions but are were invented in the 20th century for performances. Let use a few examples of Mexican Folklorico costumes, music, and dances so we can think about this a bit further.
According to the text El Ballet Folklorico de Amalia Hernandez by Gabriela Aguirre Cristiani and Felipe Segura Escalona, Dasha Topfer designed the Tamualipas costumes for this professional company. When thinking of a design, Topfer noticed that the men’s outfits were elaborate and ornate while the women’s were simple. Thus, she designed the Tamualipas costume to have a brown, leather fabric with white decorative touches. Topfer decided that both the men and women would utilize this design. To her surprise her design was designated as the “regional costume” to represent the state of Tamualipas (168).
Oftentimes, we think that the music that we dance to comes from the colonial era in Mexican history or from such a long time ago. For some regions of Mexico, this is the case but for others it is just not so. For example, Ron Houston in his book Folk Dances of Mexico for Grupos Folkloricos: Dances Introduced by Alura Flores and her Students (2017) credits Antonio Tanguma as composing the songs entitled: El Cerro de la Silla, Evangelina, El Naranjo, Polka Alegre among others. Tanguma composed these songs in the 20th century (107). In fact, his very first composition was composed in 1938. It was entitled De China a Bravo (Quiroz, 88-89). Houston asserts that the governments of Tamualipas and Nuevo Leon encouraged new dance choreographies by sponsoring dance contests (107).
In my last post entitled Folklorico Dance as Inspiration, I wrote about the dances of Sinaloa and Aguascalientes. I note that the bailes mestizos of Sinala were choreographed for the stage in the 1930s by the Maestra Rosa Andrade along with musician Don Cuco Soto. Maestros of Aguascalientes also created their own dances to represent the characteristics of their communities. So, La Pelea De Gallos was composed by Juan S. Garrido in 1945. This song was extremely popular within the community of Aguascalientes and adopted by the people. The first choreographers of this dance worked in collaboration. These teachers were María Elene Cardona, Asunción Gutiérrez and Jesús Velasco in 1962. Other choreographed dances from Aguascalientes include: Danza de Ferrocarrileros, Son Vista Alegre, and Danza de Bordadoras (8-16).
As you can see by these examples, the Mexican Folklorico costuming, music and dance traditions are not static, fixed or immobile. Even more interesting is the manner in which these invented traditions are adopted by the very communities from which they are derived. These examples show the ways in which designers, composers, and choreographers influence a community of people and vice versa. In fact, many of our dance practices are actually invented traditions from the 20th century.
Aguirre Cristiani, Gabriela and Felipe Segura Escalona, El Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernandez.Mexico D.F: Fomento Cultural Banamex, 1994. Print.
Hobsbawn, Eric and Terence Ranger, Eds. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge:Cambridge UP, 1983. Print
Houston, Ron. Folk Dances of Mexico for Grupos Folklóricos: Dances Introduced by Alura Flores and Her Students. Austin: Society of Folk Dance Historians, 2017. Print.
Garza Quiros, Fernando. “Artisticas Destacados de Nuevo León: Antonio Tanguma.” Nuevo León: Textos del Folklore. Monterrey: Asociación Nacional de Maestros de Danza Popular Mexicana A.C., 2003. Print.
Sustaita Luevano, Jose Luis. “Monografía del Estado de Aguascalientes.” 25 Congreso Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos en Aguascalentes, Mexico del 4 al 11 de Julio de 1998. Aguascalientes: Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos, 1998. Print.