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May 5, 1997

Dance performances, lecture celebrate Mexican art form

By Jennifer McNulty

[Photo of folklorico dancers] The campus is showcasing folklorico dance this month, with a lecture and video demonstration by master choreographer Rafael Zamarripa on May 16 and the Annual Spring Concert by Grupo Folklorico Los Mejicas de UC Santa Cruz on May 30 and 31 (larger photo).

Folklorico dance is a highly choreographed dance style that displays the diversity of Mexican culture. Typically, a folklorico performance consists of various "cuadros" or suites, each of which is made up of music and dance that represents a particular state, region, or historical period. Like classical ballet, folklorico dances often tell stories, frequently of courtship.

Contemporary forms of folklorico dance are subject to artistic interpretation by choreographers. "Some students think they're doing exactly the same dance that their grandmothers danced, and while that's sometimes true, most of the dances have been choreographed and stylized for stage presentations," said Olga Najera-Ramirez, an associate professor of anthropology at UCSC who was a member of UCSC's folklorico dance troupe in 1974-79 and is now faculty adviser to the group. She suggests that folklorico dance performances are best understood as theatrical representations of Mexican culture portrayed through dance rather than as "authentic" dance forms.

Internationally recognized choreographer Rafael Zamarripa will discuss the creative process in his talk, which is titled "Nuevas Formas de Danza Folklorica," or New Forms of Folkloric Dance. His lecture, which will be delivered in Spanish, will begin at 5 p.m. on May 16 in 105 Oakes College on the UCSC campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Zamarripa, who founded the Grupo Folklorico de la Universidad de Guadalajara, is credited with taking the tradition of folk ballet to new levels of innovation and skill. He is currently a Tinker Visiting Professor in Latin American Studies at Stanford University.

The performances on May 30 and 31 by Grupo Folklorico Los Mejicas de UC Santa Cruz will feature dances from nine different regions. Both performances will take place on the Performing Arts Mainstage at UCSC and will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available after May 15 at the UCSC Ticket Office at (408) 459-2159 (V/TDD). Ticket prices are $10 for adults; $7 for non-UCSC students; and $5 for UCSC students, senior citizens, and children under 12.

One of the oldest student-directed organizations on campus, Los Mejicas is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. By performing and teaching dance classes both on and off campus, members have helped foster an appreciation for Mexican culture and have served as an important cultural resource. In recognition of the contributions and achievements of Los Mejicas, Chancellor Greenwood will host a reception for past and present members of the dance troupe immediately following the May 31 performance.

Folklorico dance first became important in Mexico during the postrevolutionary period as a way to display ethnic diversity within the nation-state, but gradually it was used to attract tourist dollars as well. In the United States, however, the folklorico phenomenon flourished during the late 1960s with the rise of the Chicano movement as a medium through which Chicanos could preserve, affirm, and promote their cultural identity, said Najera-Ramirez.

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