Performing Arts: Dance
December 23, 2019
Calpulli Mexican Dance Company presented Navidad: A Mexican-American Christmas at the legendary Apollo Theatre followed by a weekend of performances at the Queens Theatre. In pre-colonial Mexico, calpulli was an Aztec clan comprised of families of common heritage who shared land, government, and education. Accordingly, this collaborative production shared authorship with its community of choreographers, performers, music artists, costume designers, and dramatists to create a collage of traditional Mexican folk dance, Latin American social dance, and ballet. All was guided by the dramaturgic leadership of internationally acclaimed actor and dancer, Gabriela García. Calpulli’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, Juan Castaño and Yuritzi Govea, played the role of a young couple who, after immigrating to the US, raised their daughter, nurturing her with their love for Mexico’s folk dance, music, flavors, and traditions.

The storyline begins as the couple prepares to leave their hometown in North Mexico with friends gathering for a goodbye party where they dance the regional polka, Santa Rita. Soon, after arriving in New York City, the couple is employed in a textile factory, as depicted in a theatrical scene choreographed by Grisel Pren Monje. In a rapid transition denoting years passing, the couple is graced by a daughter, Clarita, who is introduced on stage as an adolescent accompanying her parents to church to celebrate the festivity of La Guadalupana. After presenting their flower offerings, the family is surrounded by Los Concheros, Aztec dances often performed at the courtyard of Mexico City’s Basilica.

Transitioning into a Christmas wonderland, Sleigh Ride is performed by two lines of dancers in blue unitards accented by their silver shining shakers and antler headpieces traveling through a choreographic design of pre-colonial Mexican folk-dance vocabulary. The Nutcracker March introduces toy soldiers dressed in black Charro pants, and a ballet pas de deux closes with a musical arrangement mixing Tchaikovsky with Mexican Folk music and Jazz.

En el Nombre del Cielo recreates Mexico’s traditional Posadas. As the couple prepares tamales, their guests dance El Colás, adding a mambo flavor to guachapeado shuffling steps from Veracruz. Feeling isolated, Clarita interrupts the fiesta expressing her frustration and leaves the party to go to bed. In her sleep, Clarita has a nightmare where the Nutcracker’s toy soldiers battle against El Diablo.

The nightmare happily resolves with a colorful interlude of dances from Jalisco with La Negra en Navidad, a festive Son featuring dancers swirling ample red skirts decorated with pine green ribbons and fitted red jackets with furry white rims delineating the edge.

The program closes with Silent Night/Noche de Paz, followed by a joyous celebration with the company dancing to El Canelo and La Vieja. At both venues, the audience, largely comprised of Hispanic families, showered the company with applause. As the company members came out to the lobby to greet the audience, patrons expressed how much they appreciated this unique Christmas program that resonates with many aspects of their lives and heritage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

©2001 Eye and Dance and the Arts | All Rights Reserved