Ballet Folklorico De Mexico De Amalia Hernandez
Los Matachines, Guerrero – Guerrero, Revolucion, Charreada, Fiesta in Tlacotalpan, Dance of the Quetzales, Danzon and Jarana, Dance of the Deer, Fiesta in Jalisco
22 July 2015
If you were to take away all the foot-stamping and full skirts from Ballet Folklorico De Mexico’s show, I don’t think you’d have so very much left, dance-wise.
If you want to celebrate the revolution then you all stamp your feet and the women all twirl and lift their full skirts. If you want to celebrate the gods then you all stamp your feet and the women all twirl and lift their full skirts. You can stamp in boots and you can stamp in sandals, all while wielding a bow and arrow, a rifle, fan, kerchief or lasso. You get the picture – if I have one overwhelming impression of this company it’s that they stamp their feet at every opportunity and there is a riot of colour across the stage as full skirts are displayed every which way. This is not a show for the dance-studious, looking to discover a Mexican Balanchine or Forsythe, but a colourful and spectacular entertainment and I loved it – it’s stampiliciously good!
The company hasn’t visited London in 40 years and it’s clear they are much loved, with the Mexican Ambassador saying a few words on stage and the programme referring to them as ambassadors of Mexico and taking the Mexican ‘feel’ around the world. They have their own school and, in Amalia Hernandez, their Ninette de Valois (who started Britain’s Royal Ballet) a founder who laid down roots that have seen the company last over 60 years, and it’s still in the family with her grandson now director. There is serious intent here and the programme has a paragraph or two about each of the 9 pieces they performed; it reads like a broad range of Mexican dance, from celebrating ancient animal rituals to religion, the revolution, dance around the Caribbean and how to win a lady’s heart. And underpinning it all is a mariachi band on stage – moving and regrouping between dances and with their own instrumental and singing spots. They make a glorious sound.
Two of the pieces notably don’t feature so much stamping, both harking back to old ritual. The Dance of the Quetzales is is about a mythological bird and features amazing headdresses and very deliberate movement and the Dance of The Deer shows a hunting expedition and the deer’s killing. It felt rather perfunctory, unsophisticated and un-moving. No, what the company do best is deliver that Mexican ‘feel’, particularly in the Fiesta dances that take us into the interval and end the show. The sound is almost deafening as mariachis and feet do their damnedest to the ears and the vibrant dresses assault the eyes – it’s a total immersive experience and the dancers smilingly come out to dance and twirl in the aisles amongst us. Slickly done, but with heart I have no idea just how authentic these folk dances really are but I do know that as a show it’s an infectious and glorious thing.