Research

May 31, 2009 at 8:43 pm (Uncategorized)

I felt very uncomfortable while researching Aztec Dance because I was hoping to find something on the web, but there is not much on the history of Danza Azteca. Elizabeth mentioned Facts on File, which we can access through our library here at MSMC and this database has its own “American Indian History” section. I was so excited! I typed “dance” into the keyword search and over 10,000 results came up. I then narrowed my search to “sun dance” and there are 385 total results including 86 biographies, 16 primary sources, 1 map and 282 events and topics. I cannot wait to get started on my research for my next blog. I think an explanation of the dance dress will be next.

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Why did Aztecs dance?

May 29, 2009 at 1:22 am (Uncategorized)

Danzas Aztecas have peaked much interest in the United States. Mexican people have made Aztec dance a way to preserve their culture, and have also made it available to anyone wanting to explore their indigenous cultural history. Today, Aztec dance is about entertainment rather than religious tradition, but why did the Aztecs start this tradition of dance? Was it only a religious custom? Or was it merely entertainment? Today, Danzas keep the ritual alive to honor their ancestral culture and to preserve the history of the Mexican identity.

Quetzalcóatl: Aztec round dance

In the pre-Hispanic era the ritual of song and dance was known as “IN CUICATL IN XOCHITL” in Nahuatl (el canto y la flor), which translates to “the song and flower.”[i] This reference to a flower was a way to integrate an offering ritual with nature. It was a way for the Aztec people to stay in contact with the gods in their natural manifestation, nature. These indigenous people lived with an active attitude toward every aspect of their lives, which included not only worshiping their gods as part of their religion, but also the nature in which they lived in because it was provided by these deities. They worshiped and sacrificed for the sun god to appear every day. If the sun god appeared, or if the sun rose, it would advance the cycle of life, which would then help their crops produce, and give the light needed to harvest, and work for daily survival needs. Aztec dance was a way to worship and honor deities, but it was also a survival need.

Aztec Dance was concentration in motion. One can almost look at this as a way of meditation with movement. The dancer’s concentration on the movement and steps could channel the offering to the god as well as focusing on their goals of prayer. Ritual dance was known as Macehualiztli, which translates to “deserving.” The dance represents the eternal search of man for cosmic harmony and integration of body and spirit.[ii] It was considered a form of prayer, but also a complete way of life and communication with what was most important to these people, their gods.

This communication is evident with the movements made during the dance. The serpent-like actions represent fertility, the squatting to the floor represent the earth and crops, the twirling in the air represent the soul, the alternating of forward and backward steps represent fire, and the zigzag steps represent water.[iii] These steps are extremely simplistic, but this is what enabled the dancers to concentrate on their goals and their prayer. They connected everything that was part of the dance with nature, and therefore made it easier for the body, mind and nature to become one. The individual dancers also work together to become one entity and reach the goal of complete attentiveness. The dancers unite to create a corporal expression to worship and communicate with their gods as they are expressed in nature.

Aztec Dance is one of the most basic expressions of artistic and cultural spirit of the native people of Mexico.[iv] For the Aztecs this tradition was a part of life, and fortunately we are able to see this fascinating way of life today.

As I watch videos and see pictures on the internet of different Danzas I get an overwhelming sense of pride to see how beautiful this tradition is. I do not feel a spiritual connection to deities as the Aztecs did when they preformed, but I can feel a connection to the dancers because we share a common ancestry. Seeing the costumes and emotion from the dancers helps me better understand why the Aztecs brought about these customs and how important they were in their daily lives.


[i] http://www.barraganzone.com/mexicandances_aztec.html

[ii] http://www.zihrena.com/kuahucihuatl/azteca2.htm

[iii] http://www.barraganzone.com/mexicandances_aztec.html

[iv] http://www.zihrena.com/kuahucihuatl/azteca2.htm

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Life in Tecalitlan

May 22, 2009 at 12:31 am (Uncategorized)

It looks like everyone is out on the street. Children, adults, elders, and even dogs line the sidewalks of Tecalitlan, Jalisco. Abuelo starts his travel to the front door with his old rusty chair, and bright pink plastic holding it together. The chair is not very sturdy; an imprint of his butt is quickly turning into a dangerous tear. You know he is going to fall right through it any day, but it is his favorite chair and today there is no time to think of it. Today is special. This is the day of The Virgin de Guadalupe and the procession of danzas is about to pass by.

A child runs by yelling, “Ay vienen!” Here they come! In the distance an array of bright feathers peek out of a cloud of dust. Unfortunately, the town does not have paved roads, except for the two mile stretch of main road bringing visitors in, and quickly getting them out. This made a cloud of dust hover over the dance processional as they stomped their feet on the dry dirt with fervor. The sight of the dancers also brings a melodic thumping of drums as well as the rattling of bells, which gave me, a five year old child, chills. It is an amazing sight to see the whole town involved in such a beautiful display of honor of our culture, of our heritage and of our ancestors.

The first group is a male group with the most elegant costumes. Three or four men usually led setting the melody with drums. What a sight! I remember standing in amazement as each group went by. Our house is at one end of town so by the time the procession arrived, the sweat and exhaustion is visible on their faces, but this is not enough to keep them from presenting the dance at full emotion.

My Abuelo (he was actually my great-grandfather, but I would call him “Abuelo”) would give me the play-by-play on each group. “Mira,” he would start, “Those feathers symbolize the Aztec warriors.” Then a few minutes later again, “Mira…” I did not grasp the importance of these days, but at that time I was mesmerized with the colors, music and fanfare of the day.

I remember wanting to be a dancer. I enjoyed the performance so much from my front door, but unfortunately I went back to Los Angeles to start school and did not have this first hand exposure to the Danzas Aztecas anymore. When I returned to live in Tecalitlan I was 13 years old, and I could only help the danzas by walking the processional and carrying water for the girls in my friend’s group. This gave me a sense of belonging even though I was a visitor from the United States, but I get a feeling of pride talking about this experience because I know how remarkable it is in my life.

I was able to find a video of a danza from Tecalitlan on youtube.com. The group in the video is not one I remember, but I like that it is an all female group and even though the steps and use of instruments are very simplistic, the procession is amazing. Please take a look:

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Let’s get started

May 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Blogging is all I can think about since our meeting on Sunday. What should I write about? Who is going to want to read my rambling about Aztec Dance? I spent three days trying to figure out how to upload a video on my sight. I even had my co-worker converting files on special software. Then I thought I had to buy an upgrade through WordPress.com. I’m sure you know how frustrated I felt… Well, this has been an adventure already, let’s get started.

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Hello world!

May 17, 2009 at 8:42 pm (Uncategorized)

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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