Folklorico Dance as an Embodied Practice

Mexican Folklorico Dance is an art form that is passed down from parent to child and teacher to student. Yet, oftentimes we fail to really dig deep and closely look at what our dance movements tell us about ourselves as a people. We need to ask ourselves the following question. What are we trying to say when we dance?

Jane Desmond in “Embodying Difference” (1997) argues that many scholars emphasize the written word as a primary method of documentation instead of analyzing dance. She says that we should closely analyze the body movements that we make when we dance just as we would a novel or a poem (29). When we closely analyze the dancing body, we can “trace historical and geographic changes in complex kinesthetic systems and study comparatively symbolic systems based on language, visual representation, and movement” (29-30). Diana Taylor in The Archive and the Repertoire (2003) follows this line of thinking. Taylor argues that instead of focusing primarily on written texts we should analyze dance as an embodied cultural practice. She states that for the indigenous people of Mexico dance as an embodied cultural practice is the primary mode of transmission of histories.  It was with the conquest of Spain that the text was emphasized over embodied culture. Other forms of cultural embodiments include: rituals, funerals, weddings, etc. They are all aspects of expressive culture which are bodily transmitted from one person to another (16-18). Both Desmond and Taylor argue that bodily movements are just as important as textual writings.  So, now I ask what happens when we closely analyze our folklorico dancing body?

We need to really think about the ways in which folklorico dance as an embodied cultural practice is transmitted from one person to another. Oftentimes, we learn our dances from our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles. We also learn our dance from our beloved Dance teachers who spent years and years learning their craft. These dances are stored in our bodies, in our memories, in our soul. With every movement that we make we remember our histories, struggles, and successes. We can analyze our dances very carefully and dissect them as we would the plot of a Star Wars movie. As Desmond suggests when we analyze dance we unearth the gender dynamics at play, racial relations, the ways in which our social identities are formed, contested and negotiated (29-31). A close reading of our dancing bodies provides valuable information about the beliefs or our people, what they value, and how they want to be represented. Within our dances are embodied cultural practices that have been passed on for generations.  I argue that the memories of the people of Mexico, as well as the Chicana/o people are stored within our dancing body.   So that every dance movement that we make is part of our cultural legacy.  When I teach, I often tell my own students “there is no need to say a word, just watch us dance and you will know who we are as a people.”

Works Cited

Desmond, Jane. “Embodying Difference: Issues in Dance and Cultural Studies.” Meaning in Motion. Ed. Jane Desmond. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997. 29-54. Print.

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

All photos courtesy of Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia

Copyright, 11/18/2017, Mendoza-Garcia

Gabriela Mendoza-García Ph.D. is an Artist and Scholar. She has her own dance school and company called the Gabriela Mendoza-García Ballet Folklórico in Laredo, Texas.  Dr. Mendoza-Garcia founded this group in 2013 and teaches children and adults of all ages. Her company consists of seasoned folklórico dancers with years of experience performing this art form. She teaches traditional Mexican folklórico dance pieces, as well as, works that are inspired by her scholarly research. Her scholarship includes: Dancing throughout Mexican History (1325-1910), History & Folklore booklet with an accompanying documentary sponsored by the Webb County Heritage Foundation, The Jarabe Tapatío: Imagining Race, Nation, Class and Gender in 1920s Mexico published by Oxford University Press, an on-line blog, writings for Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos, and others.

One thought on “Folklorico Dance as an Embodied Practice

  1. Pingback: Dancing Mexico: As Seen through the Eyes of Luis Covarrubias | Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ballet Folklorico

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