September 13, 2002

Mexico: Magia y color

As surrealistic as Frida Kahlo’s art, Mexico’s spirit came to life at Ballet Folklórico del Pacifico’s performance

By Rosalba Ruiz

It was a Mexican fiesta, a celebration where the spirit of our southern neighbor arose and joyfully danced around the full-to-capacity Ford Amphitheatre of Hollywood. The Ballet Folkórico del Pacífico embodied that spirit, allowing it to reveal some of its truest nuances.

During their enchanting presentation, the ensemble combined traditional folkloric Mexican dances with classical and modern techniques, as well as dazzlingly bright costumes, to create a unique portrayal of Mexican culture through music and choreography.

The performance started with a set of traditional pieces from the state of Michoacán, a southwestern state of Mexico, where folk culture abounds. They infused inventiveness in the pieces, as was seen during their Danza del Pescado (Dance of the Fish), where they used an enormous, glittery, plush fish as a prop. They also managed to instill some humor in their Danza de los viejitos (Dance of the Elder), where the male ensemble transformed themselves into elderly dancers that could barely walk, yet were able to leap from one side of the stage to the other.

The highlight of the evening was the premier of Frida: Magia y Color (Frida: Magic and Color). Inspired by the life and art of the late painter, the company created an imaginative set that portrayed Frida at different stages of her life, using some of her most well-known paintings as points of reference.

The dances reflected Frida’s multifaceted character, and explored issues such as her sexuality, her culture, her loves… and her pain. A particularly intense piece was Fractura (fracture), apparently inspired by the paintings Arbol de la esperanza (Tree of Hope) and La Columna Rota (The Broken Spinal Cord), where we see a Frida very much in pain and despair.

After honoring Frida, the group performed their Canción y romance (Song and Romance) set, accompanied by Mariachi de Juan José Amarguer. The mood changed from melancholic to merry as the first few notes of violins and trumpets were heard. The resounding voices of the singers interpreted recent Ranchera hits such as Juan Gabriel’s Te sigo amando, and Alejandro Fernandez’ Sol y Trigo. The suite interweaved this music with original choreography for a very unique story-telling technique not usually employed by other folklórico ensembles, for most of them prefer to preserve the use of traditional music and steps to preserve historic accuracy.

To conclude the festivities, the company chose the very popular Jalisco dances. Their Fiesta en Jalisco couldn’t have been more appropriate. It summed up what the entire evening was about: celebrating the Mexican character, its restless soul, its magical essence. And nothing says more “Mexico” than a thunderous zapateado. Or the vibrantly loud red, green, yellow, and purple costumes. Or the blaring mariachi trumpets.

Yes, Mexico is definitely all about Magia y Color… ¡Si Señor!

Reprinted from LationLA ( September 10, 2002.

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