Last week I had the opportunity to work with a woman who teaches traditional Mexican dances to the local Hispanic community (primarily children). They were doing a Mother's day celebration, with the kids reading poems, singing songs, and doing traditional dances. The instructor wanted to do a more traditional Mexican hat dance, which requires a male partner, and she asked me to learn the dance so we could present it together. It had some interesting traveling single cubans, and "Change-Kicks", but that's not the point of this message. One of the dances the children presented was an ancient Aztec dance, which precedes the Spanish conquest, and probably precedes it by a few hundred years. The rhythm and tempo was Cha Cha! I talked to the teacher and her sister afterwards (both trained at dance institutes in Mexico), and they went into great detail about the dance, which was a spring corn-planting dance. One of the basic moves they used was: (Beat 1) Using the toe of the lead foot, push the dirt aside to make a small indentation in the ground, next to the other foot; (Beat 2) Recover as you imitate dropping a seed into the hole; (Beats 3-4) Stomp three times as you cover the seed with dirt. In other words, the basic movement is a style variation of the Cucaracha.
I'm not claiming that this Aztec dance somehow developed into the Cha Cha, but I do find it interesting that this particular latin rhythm was in use in Mexico at least by the early 1400's, and I was hoping that some of you might share in my enjoyment of this little discovery.
[By the way, the Mexican dance teacher spoke no English, and I speak no Spanish, but we both speak dance, and she taught me the dance that way. When we did have to actually talk, I had a 7-year old friend of mine translate for us! When I wanted to ask more about the Aztec dance, though, I had a professional translator (the 7-year old's mother) work with us so to ensure I was getting the details right.]
Location: Boston area
Oh good, I'm not the only one going on about folk dancing traditions anymore!
Hi Darrah! That's really kinda neat about the cha-cha rhythm turning up in much older Spanish dances. The name Morris dancing that I mentioned above is sometimes thought to be from the word "Moorish" so it may have a Spanish connection too. The info you gave is the first time I've heard of any possible link from modern ballroom all the way back to the old pagan earth-magic dances, which is fascinating. Sort of like that town in England where they actually identified a living person (a history teacher, no less) through DNA testing as being a descendant of some human prehistoric fossils found in the area.
Being an Irish dancer who started in 1992 as a six-year-old, I can say Riverdance and LOTD were NOT factors in my decision. I'm from Ireland, and my mum and da did Irish dance as children.
I've been two Worlds twice, and never recalled. I'm in the highest level now.
Irish dance is not technically Folk Dance. It is a live form of dance which is constantly changing. It's governed as a whole by An Coimisiun de Rinci Gaelacha here in Dublin, Ireland.
Irish is one of the most intense and powerful dance forms out there, but many people can't get passed stereotypes.
It is NOT called Riverdancing! It is NOT called Irish Tap! There are two aspects, softshoe and hardshoe. You start hardshoe after a few months to a few years of softshoe.
Irish dance has also been competitive for hundreds and hundreds of years. A competition of Irish dance is called a feis. Irish can not be in mainstream competition, because it's governed by a head body of people, and then regional governing bodies as well.
There are a few main solo dances taught:
Slip Jig (ladies dance)
Traditional sets (the steps are the same at every school, and set to the same piece of music, and named for it) EXAMPLES: St. Patrick's Day, The Blackbird and Garden of Daisies
Non-traditonal sets (the steps are not the same at every school, but they are set to the same piece of music, and named for it) EXAMPLES: Blackthorn Stick, Orange Rogue and Three Sea Captians
I stood against the wall to watch and thought I would never learn these dances, well after 12 years I am still going, and a matter of fact when the instructor can't be there, I now teach the class. We changed the name, and now it is called the Roanoke Valley IFD
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