Founded in 1985 by Maestro Hugo Betancourt, Ballet Folklórico “Quetzalli” de Veracruz strays from the norm of pointed toe shoes and tutus. Actually, it showcases colorfully rich costumes, fanciful hats, large papier mâché masks, and oftentimes utilizes props to pinpoint time and place, while entertaining and educating about the country south of the border.
UNCW Presents and Centro Hispano are bringing Ballet Folklórico “Quetzalli” de Veracruz to Kenan Auditorium on Thursday, September 22, at 7:30 p.m. Centro Hispano, a UNCW organization, supports the growth of Hispanic students on campus by connecting them with each other and the community at large through networking and cultural events. Ballet Folklórico “Quetzalli” de Veracruz provides an artistic reach into various traditions and celebrations within Mexico’s borders.
Steve Heath, artist management and tour coordinator, has been a part of the production and has booked the tour across the U.S. for the last 30 years. “It all started in Kansas City,” Heath told encore about his involvement. Heath was an arts management major at the liberal arts school, Ottawa University. While studying, he was able to build a program all his own of courses which had to be presented to and approved by the university’s board. He saw Ballet Folklórico and immediately became involved. Heath now has his own company, Alma Artists and Booking, where he helps manage the group.
“There are over 60 languages spoken in Mexico today, including some indigenous languages,” according to Heath. The ballet exposes the various cultures, including native dances and musical numbers, performed by 12 dancers—six male and six female—18 to mid-30s. The dancers all hail from the capital city of Xalapa, Veracruz, and rigorously rehearse four to five times a week in preparation of their tour. They stomp, tap, twirl, jump, jive, and sashay to illuminate the diversity of numerous folk dances across the region, inspired by preHispanic, Spanish, Moorish, and African cultures.
Each dance sheds light on important events and traditions from different areas of Mexico. Since the ballet originated in Xalapa, most interpreted traditions are from Veracruz. Others include Celebración de Semana Santa Tarahumara, Fiesta de Celebración a la Virgen de Guadalupe, Fiestas de Navidad en Veracruz.
Celebración de Semana Santa Tarahumara is the Holy Week Celebration, where people in Chihuahua, Mexico, perform dances to pray, honor the dead, express spirituality and ward off bad energies. Fiesta de Celebración a la Virgen de Guadalupe rises from Ozuluama, wherein dancers perform an interpretation of an offering to the virgin. The clothes, dance and music blend European and indigenous traditions.
Fiestas de Navidad en Veracruz is a series of dances representing various Christmas traditions from the state of Veracruz—such as carrying a large branch called “versúchil.” The branch represents rebirth of nature between traditions of indigenous ancestors and modern members of society.
Nayarit is in an agriculturally rich region. In the ballet, dancers use agricultural tools to express its impact on the nation. Also specific to Nayarit is the violin, which audiences will hear in its rich tonalities during this performance. In fact, instrumentation changes throughout the ballet, depending on what region the dancers are showcasing. Live accompaniment will come from four musicians: Rafael Dominguez, Ari Cervantes, Kevin Zapo and Miguel Delgado. They mix up vocals, violin, harp, guitar, bass, and jarana. The jarana is native to the Jarocho region of Veracruz and resembles a guitar from the Baroque era. It sounds more percussive than string-based, and actually mimics the zapateado steps of dancers who perform in sync with the music. “The Jarocho culture is very prominent in Mexico,” Heath pointed out. “The Jarocho culture refers to the people of the Veracruz area.”
Ballet Folklórico represents the department of tourism for the state of Veracruz. Performances show audiences that Mexico has so much more to offer in the way of arts than one may expect. Wilmingtonians can experience it firsthand this Thursday; tickets are on sale online or at the box office, now.