Long after the Conquest, the most poular of all mexican dances is the Voladore dance with Totonaque origins (dance of the ‘Bird Men’ or the dance of the ‘Flying Men’).
Originating from the Véracruz region and notably Papantla, "capital Totonac", the Voladores carry out an ancient ritual, a sort of aerial choreography along a mast.
This ancestral ritual, which was without a doubt dedicated to fertility, sun and wind, has become a tourist attraction throughout Mexico. In front of the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico city, a permanent mast allows for daily Voladore performances.
They are dressed in traditional costumes which are also richly decorated: embroidered red trousers, white shirts, stitched and looped hairstyle with mirrors and ribbons.
At the Festival of Identity, you could assist in many exhibitions with an old wooden mast or a modern mast.
Throwing themselves from a 30m high verge, four bold young men hang by a foot moving around the mast forming larger circles as their ropes spin. These four dancers perch at the four extremities f the mast, symbolising the four cardinal points, thus evoking sky, Earth, fire and water. Perched on a tiny 40cm wide platform, the 5th dancer begins with their body arched outwards towards the sky and plays the highest notes on their flute towards Chichini, the Sun God, whilst playing the tambourine. The music is devoted to the four cardinal points. As soon as the music stops, the Voladores who are attached by their feet launch themselves head first with the hands turned towards the sky. Whilst mirrors sewn to their hats catch the sun’s rays, they each complete 13 turns around the pole, giving a total of 52 turns which is in reference to the solar year (4 dancers X 13 =52).
Each acrobat accomplishes 13 revolutions. The 52 figures performances symbolise the numbers of years which made up an Aztec century. The flight of these four dancers symbolises the souls of the dead warriors who, in the middle of the day just as the sun is at its highest point, come back to the Earth, transformed but for a minute into birds. The synchronised flight symbolises the unity of humanity and the cosmos.
The show of the Dance
of the Voladores occurs on busy days, at mid-day, at the entrance
of the site during the Festival of Identity or in Papantla. You also can see them in Mexico
City, Cholula, Teotihuacán.....
Help them live by tipping them on the premises.
From UNESCO website :
Ritual ceremony of the Voladores
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The ritual ceremony of the Voladores (‘flying men’) is a fertility dance performed by several ethnic groups in Mexico and Central America, especially the Totonac people in the eastern state of Veracruz, to express respect for and harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds. During the ceremony, four young men climb a wooden pole eighteen to forty metres high, freshly cut from the forest with the forgiveness of the mountain god. A fifth man, the Caporal, stands on a platform atop the pole, takes up his flute and small drum and plays songs dedicated to the sun, the four winds and each of the cardinal directions. After this invocation, the others fling themselves off the platform ‘into the void’. Tied to the platform with long ropes, they hang from it as it spins, twirling to mimic the motions of flight and gradually lowering themselves to the ground. Every variant of the dance brings to life the myth of the birth of the universe, so that the ritual ceremony of the Voladores expresses the worldview and values of the community, facilitates communication with the gods and invites prosperity. For the dancers themselves and the many others who participate in the spirituality of the ritual as observers, it encourages pride in and respect for one’s cultural heritage and identity. See Unesco website for slideshow and video.
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