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Every dance artist, choreographer, director, or instructor keeps reference notes, music, or video on their craft. The Cashion Cultural Legacy has begun to collect and curate materials that reference the Mexican folk dance movement in México and the United States with the hope of some day having them available for the general public.
This is still a dream, but we have taken some basic first steps, including the publication of two books that speak to the early days of folklórico in California.
The first book, No Boots, is a personal remembrance of the early days of Mexican dance in the Los Angeles area by Rosie Chavarria Peña, the founder of dance company Relampago del Cielo.
“Our performances were fast-paced and highly diverse. After only one dance, we would have a costume change while other members of the company were on stage. It was not like the ballet folklóricos that came later, where several dances are performed from one region and with the same costume. The costumes were made either by our mothers or a professional seamstress. Neither the boys nor the girls wore boots, as developed later within the ballet and grupo folklóricos. This trend would change as a result of the Chicano movement of the 1960s when people were rediscovering their Mexican heritage and there was a tremendous increase in ballet folklóricos.”
The second book, Three Pioneers of Mexican Dance in California, transcribes probing interviews with maestros Ramón Morones, Emilio Pulido, and Benjamín Hernández.
“The substance of this work collects the oral histories of Emilio Pulido, Ramón Morones, and Benjamin Hernández, each of whom attended La Escuela de Artes Plásticas de la Universidad de Guadalajara, and then separately immigrated to California beginning in 1965. They arrived during the era of the affirmative action movement, and their work in dance reflects this socio-political environment. You will find these three unique individuals to be quite distinct in their perceptions and lifestyles, yet each one established a place as a prominent education of Mexican dance in California.”
CCL Founder Susan Cashion contributed to this compilation on Mexican dance with her essay entitled The Mexican Danzón: Restrained Sensuality
“The military band opened its program with a selection of marches and symphonic works, but the highlight of the evening was their renderings of the danzón. Elderly gentlemen were seated in the first row of chairs, smartly dressed in crisp, white guayabera shirts, creased white slacks, and white dress shoes. As each danzón began, they invited a partner to the area in front of the stage and laced together traditional steps they remembered from their youth. Their selected partners were their wives, daughters, or even granddaughters. The soft romance of the music floated in the warm evening breeze over the plaza. Spectators applauded the dancers after each selection and commented on the senior dancers’ elegance.”