Books from my bookshelf

Digging Deep into Research

As Folkloristas it is essential that we conduct our own research on the dances that we present while making efforts to learn new choreographies. There are so many things we can do to enhance our cuadros (choreography) by conducting our own research.

Search your own Dance Library

I often start my research at home scouring my home library for materials that I may need before teaching a new cuadro to my students. In it I have some classic texts that I always reference. (See my blog posts: Folklorico Books for Every Folkloristas Collection and Summer Reading for Folkloristas of All Ages). I also keep materials from any workshops that I have attended. I have all my eleven years of monographs from the Asociacion Nacional de Grupos Folkloricos (ANGF) conference which I always rely on for more information on costumes, music, history, and dances. I try to get different perspectives from scholars by reading materials from authors written during different time periods. So, for example I may read an article or book from Frances Toor to see her perspective on Veracruz dances during the early 20th century. Then, I may dig into something written by a current folkloristas by referencing my ANGF monographs.

Posing for the Camera as I Read a Book
Reading a Book

Look for out of Print Materials

I am always searching for copies of out of print materials. I usually review books available on amazon and visit used book stores for copies of books that are no longer in print. When they are for sale at a reasonable price, I buy them immediately. However, many rare books are not sold today. So, I often visit a university library. First, I utilize the on-line database called world cat. (https://www.worldcat.org/ ). This is a database for researchers. I log in and mark my hometown libraries as my favorites. For me, my favorite library is the University of Texas at Austin (UT) Benson Latin American Library. I search their database by submitting a subject, title of book, and/or author. This database searches for libraries all over the world to tell me where I can find my book. Then, I make a list of all the books and archival materials that I will need. Be sure to look for books, newspapers, monographs, videos, music, photographs etc. I e-mail the librarian in advance to let her know that I will be visiting and to ask for books that are in storage. You might be able to check out the books if you are part of the alumni association of the university or you belong to a library book lending program. In Texas, this is called Texshare and I signed up at my local public library. With this card, I am able to check out books from participating libraries all over Texas.

Collect Oral Histories

I know this is so difficult to do because we are often working full-time and teaching dance but when we talk to people and get to know their perspectives…the rewards are endless. Meeting with people who danced, choreographed, or taught these dances and getting their life stories is so important. Sometimes, if I am unable to meet with anyone in person, I will begin a search on google and look for articles, news clips, on the people and places of the region that I will be presenting. Better yet, go out of your way to visit museums, libraries, and attend festivals in the United States and Mexico.

Watch Folklorico Concerts

One way I get inspired is to watch folklorico concerts of dance groups in Mexico and the United States. I pay close attention to the ways in which they use lights, props, backdrop, musical cues. I even notice the choreographic formations, costumes choices etc. This gives me ideas on things that I would do differently or keep the same.

Visit Mexico  

If possible, visit the state or region that you will be presenting. While you are there, watch their dances, meet the people, soak in the culture. This is vital.

My Thoughts

These are just a few ways that I research a cuadro before I present a suite of dances. I am sure that there are many other ideas. How do you research your choreographies before presenting them on stage?

Written by Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ph.D.

Dancing Throughout Mexican History (132-1910)
Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910)

My aunt’s book called Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910) is available for purchase on Amazon. It traces the history of Mexican Dance from the Pre-Hispanic era to right before the Mexican Revolution. For more information, please click on the link below. https://www.amazon.com/author/gabrielamendozagarcia


Summer Reading for Folkloristas of all Ages

Summer Reading for Folkloristas of all Ages

Well, summer is around the corner and I decided to share a few of my favorite books for folkloristas. These books make great summer reading for children. For adults, we can read these books to expand our knowledge. The books are available at amazon.com, your local book store or your local library.

Children’s Books

Lupita’s First Dance: El Primer Baile de Lupita
  • Lupita’s First Dance: El Primer Baile de Lupita by Lupe Ruiz-Flores-This is a bilingual book which tells the story of Lupita and her first time dancing folklórico with her class. At their school concert her partner does not show up. What should she do?  I read this book to my folklórico students and they loved it.
What can you do with a Rebozo? Que Puedes hacer con un Rebozo?
  • What can you do with a Rebozo? Què Puedes Hacer con un Rebozo? By Carmen Tafolla-This bilingual book really connects with our dances because it talks about the different uses of a rebozo. A young girls tells us the many ways the different members of her family uses a rebozo. For example the rebozo is used: to accent a dress, to play hide and seek, as a hair decoration, to keep warm, etc.
Danza! Amalia Hernandez and el Ballet Folklorico de Mexico
  • Danza!: Amalia Hernández and el Ballet Folklórico de México-This book features the unique artwork of Duncan Tonatiuth which is a treasure in and of itself. It traces the life story of Amalia Hernández and her founding of the Ballet Folklórico de México. It starts with her youth, dance training, setting her company, and traveling throughout the world.
The Man Who Set the Town Dancing: El Hombre Que Puso a Bailar a Todo el Pueblo
  • The Man who set the Town Dancing: El Hombre que puso a Bailar a Todo el Pueblo by Candice Stanford-This bilingual book recounts the story of my dear friend Josè Tena of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The book begins with Josè Tena dreaming of teaching folklórico one day. Then, he begins to research the dances of New Mexico and puts them on-stage for the world to appreciate. This book ends with a brief biography of the life of this remarkable folklorista, as well as, with diagrams and explanations of four New Mexican dances. I must admit this book is a bit harder to purchase since it is out of print. I scoured amazon until someone finally sold a copy.
Todos a Celebrar! A Hispanic Customs and Traditions Alphabet Book
  • Todos a Celebrar!: Hispanic Customs and Traditions Alphabet Book by Maria Alma Gonzalez Perez-This bilingual book is perfect for our littlest of dancers who may not know how to read yet. Each alphabetic letter corresponds with a Mexican cultural tradition. It is a great way to reinforce the alphabet while learning the about the many Mexican traditions.

Adult Readers

El Baile Calabaceado: Tradicion de la Fiesta del Vaquero
  • El Baile Calabaceado: Tradición de la Fiesta del Vaquero by Raúl Valdovinos García-This book is written in Spanish. It covers the history of the calabaceado dances as performed in La Misión in Baja California. Most importantly, the author writes of how this dance which started as a regional dance became representative of the entire state of Baja California. A very important book for those of us that teach and perform calabaceados.
Dancing in the New World: Aztecs, Spaniards, and the Choreography of Conquest
  • Dancing in the New World: Aztecs, Spaniards, and the Choreography of Conquest by Paul A Scolieri-Many of us teach the Aztec dances to our dancers. This book really highlights the importance dance played in the conquest of Mexico. Included are drawings from the era, as well as documenting the ways that dance was a form of resistance, retaliation, and conquest. For more of my ideas on this subject see my blog post entitled Aztec Dance: Re-writing History
Mi Vida, Mis Viajes, Mis Vivencias: Siete Decadas de la Musica del Mariachi
  • Mi Vida, Mis Viaje, Mis Vivencias: Siete Decades de la Musica del Mariachi by Miguel Martínez-This book is written in Spanish. Here, Martínez tells of us his life and how he became a trumpet player with the famous Mariachi Vargas. You will learn how in the early 20th century mariachi musical groups did not include the trumpet. He narrates his struggles and successes as a member of the Mariachi Vargas. I purchased this book on amazon a few months ago. It might be a bit difficult to find since it is out of print.
The Power of the Zoot: Youth Culture and Resistance during World War II
  • The Power of the Zoot: Youth Culture and Resistance during World War II by Luis Alvarez-Those of us that dance the pachuco/a dances of the 1940s should purchase this book. It gives a detailed account of the various injustices, discriminatory practices, and stance against assimilation that the pachuco/as were fighting against. It is a good backdrop to understanding the pachuco/a culture and the dances that we depict. For more of my ideas on this subject, please visit my blog post entitled Chicana/o Rebellious Dancers: The Pachuca/o Zoot Suiters
Mexico’s Nobodies: The Cultural Legacy of the Soldadera and the Afro-Mestizo Mexican Woman
  • México’s Nobodies: The Cultural Legacy of the Soldadera and Afro-Mexican Women by Christine Arce-This book brings to light the role of the soldaderas throughout Mexico’s Revolultionary War (1910-1920). It has great historical accounts which you can use to frame your own Revolutionary Dances. Also, the author emphasizes the role of Afro-Mestizo women throughout history. Please read more of my ideas on this topic on my blog post entitled Five Historical Facts about Las Adelitas or Las Soldaderas

This concludes my list of top ten favorite summer reading for folkloristas. If you’d like to increase your knowledge of Mexican history , please read my aunt Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter’s book Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910). It is available for purchase on Amazon. I have number of different blog posts related to this book. Please see below: Dancing Mexico as seen through the Eyes of Luis Covarrubias and How do Folklorico Dancers Embody the Son?

Dancing Throughout Mexican History (132-1910)
Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910)

By Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ph.D.