Last Sunday was Shirley’s first live experience of the Folklórico, but it was actually my fourth, having first seen them back in 1969 during one of their USA tours. Now admittedly, seeing this as a sixteen year old (with spinal fluid back then consisting largely of raging testosterone) one of my biggest takeaways from that first show was the beautiful women dancers. At subsequent shows attended during my time working here, my older/wiser self’s expanded field of vision more fully appreciated the Folklorico’s brilliant choreography, their exquisite, dazzling costumes – as well as the positively mind blowing technique and artistry of the performers.
So, it was a wonderful treat to finally share all this with Shirley. To begin with, simply entering and gazing (mostly UP) at the Palace of Fine Arts – with its Neoclassical/Art Nouveau exterior and its Art Deco Interior – is a stunning visual feast in and of itself.
And then, fronting the entire stage – top to bottom – is their famous Tiffany glass curtain, depicting a scene of Mexico’s famous volcanoes outside of town.
Now, if all the previous performances I’d attended were any indication, Hernandez would always open her shows with her vision of an early indigenous dance accompanied by aggressive percussion, and happily Sunday’s opener didn’t vary from the formula. It’s a superb artistic choice for a curtain raiser as the effect is immediate and visceral. The spectacle of sight and sound grabs you from the moment the choreography begins and doesn’t let go until the hall suddenly goes black.
Here is a YouTube link to the opening dance of Sunday’s show, performed offsite at one of their annual fundraising galas.
But be advised, you’d likely need an 80” HD screen and your neighborhood’s most enviable sound system to even begin to re-create the effect of seeing this at Bellas Artes. (Plus, in Sunday’s show, they more than doubled the number of drummers and centered them in front, rising slowly from the pit by its hydraulic lift. KEWL!!!)
And speaking to that visceral effect, when the lights resumed to begin the next dance, Shirley and I looked at each other and discovered we were both teary-eyed, having been so overcome by this breathtaking tsunami of sight and sound washing over us.
During the course of the performance we were dazzled by a variety of kaleidoscopic dances originating from the states of Jalisco, Veracruz, Michoacán, Sonora, plus a dance originating from Spain (one which ultimately influenced Mexican dance), even a choreographed homage to Mexico’s struggle for independence.
Here is a short video sampling of many of these dances & costumes combined in sequence (for yet another annual Gala concert) of Mexico’s most revered orchestral work, Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapango.”
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t give high praise to the instrumentalists who accompanied the dancers. In addition to perhaps the finest mariachi band in town for the Jalisco dance – Jalisco being the state from which the Mariachi originates – there were various combinations of guitars, violins, marimbas and Veracruz harps. It’s safe to say that their artistry, technique and rhythm were equal to that of the dancers in most every way. (To be sure, this HAS TO be one of the truly sweet gigs in town for these instrumentalists and the Folklorico, of course, can select from the best of the best.)
The Ballet Folklorico is an experience that never disappoints and always seems to hit a home run, as it did THIS time. Shirley and I simply lost count of the number of times our breaths were taken away. Art of this caliber – and of this intensity – is a reason we come to Mexico, and a reason we return.