Mexican folk dancing began in the Mesoamerican era when the Mayans and Aztecs performed dances to satisfy the deities. These dances were performed by the elite within the culture in religious ceremonies. The lower classes within the culture at this time performed Mexican folk dances to ask the gods to bless their crops.
European settlers brought dancing styles of Europe which included the waltz, ballet, polka, to the Americas (“Mexican Dancing”). Parts of these dancing styles were intermingled with the Mexican folk dances. One of the primary reasons that the style of the European settlers was incorporated into the Mexican folk dancing is that the European settlers made an effort to extricate the traditional Mexican dance style from the culture replacing it with their own the more European style; although they were successful to some degree, the Europeans were unable to eliminate the indigenous Mexican dance style from rural areas. Thus, Mexican folk dancing after the period in which the European settlers arrived bears strong elements of European culture.
One traditional Mexican folk dance that is still around today, has its origins rooted at the very beginning of the colonial period immediately after the Spanish conquered the Aztec Empire. The Concheros dance is considered to be one of the oldest dances in Mexico and serves the purpose of preserving Mexico’s indigenous pre-Hispanic heritage (Stanton). Like other dances of the period, this dance was altered during the period of the Spanish invasion to give it a Catholic meaning, which was the religion of the new settlers (Stanton). Thus, many traditional Mexican folk dances which appealed to pagan gods, were altered in a way that acknowledged the religions of the Europeans that settled in the area.
Following the Mexican Revolution, there was a movement to revive Mexican culture and with it Mexican folk dancing. Mexican folk dancing represented a celebration of Mexican culture and tradition. Therefore, when performing these dances, dancers are clad in traditional old-style Mexican dress adored with bright colors, flowing skirts, and other elaborate cultural costumes. The Spanish influence, however, could not be eliminated form these dances so they remain a mix of indigenous culture, European culture, and some African culture.
The La Conquista is a Mexican folk dance that is not of indigenous origin with depicts the story of the conquest of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish. This dance depicts the attempts by the Spanish to extinguish the indigenous culture and replace it with their own. Similar to this dance, other Mexican folk dances tell stories in dance form about the history and culture of the country.
Currently, Mexican folk dancing has its own unique elements in each of the 31 states of the country of Mexico. These dances honor the culture, customs, and traditions of the region in which they are performed. “Of all the Mexican folk dances, perhaps the most beloved is the Jarabe Tapatio, also known as the Mexican Hat Dance. Originated in the state of Jalisco, this traditional Mexican dancing is often called the national dance of Mexico and is a current version of the older regioanl dances first performed in Guadalajara in the 1920s” (“Mexican Dancing”). This dance is a dance that illustrates the courtship ritual. Once banned for being against the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of the Spanish settlers, the dance regained popularity after the Mexican Revolution (Stanton). Today, the dance is considered to be a patriotic dance which represents unity.
Some other notable Mexican folk dances include: La Danza del Venado, El Baile de Los Viejitos, and Danza de los Voladores. The La Danza del Venado is a reenactment of a deer hunt. El Baile de Los Viejitos is one of the most dangerous Mexican folk dances and involves mask wearing men dancing with machetes. The Danza de los Voladores is a form of Mexican pole dancing. All of these dances are rich with Mexican traditional and are often performed at various Mexican celebrations throughout the year.
- “Mexican Dancing.” Mexico Adventure. 1999. Web. 26 April 2016.
- Stanton, Geoffrey. “Four Traditional Mexican Folk Dances.” Private Island Party. 17 April 2013. Web. 26 April 2016.