BWW Review: Celebrating Dia de los Muertos with CALPULLI MEXICAN DANCE COMPANY
On the weekend of October 29th and 30th, 2016, the acclaimed Calpulli Mexican Dance Company presented audiences with a special Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) production with live music, classical and folkloric dances with a mix of contemporary work with long-time partner at the Queens Theatre. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Alberto Lopez Herrera, Choreographer-in-Residence and former dancer with Ballet Hispanico Roberto Lara, and Music Director George Saenz, the company took audiences on a journey to a small town in Mexico to Michtlan- the beautiful underworld of Aztec mythology.
Dia de los Muertos is a holiday that is celebrated throughout Mexico, and around the world, as a way to honor those who have passed on. Families bring ofrendas (offerings) to the deceased such as flowers, candles, and food to the cemetery, and create altars at home with items such as marigolds (the flower of death), fresh water, the deceased's favorite foods, and sugar skulls (a reminder that death is the sweet continuation of life). It is believed that the spirits will bless those who honor their dead. La Catrina is the most popular image associated with the holiday. Originally created by Jose Guadalupe Posada, La Catrina represents death and the willingness to laugh at death.
This production, tells the story of a breadmaker, Don José, who attempts to have his daughter, Lupita marry Maximiliano, the town's arrogant millionaire, despite her courtship with Raul whom she loves. Maximiliano challenges Raul to a duel, to which he loses. Blinded by his vengeance, Maximiliano sends a poisoned drink to Raul that Lupita mistakenly drinks, ending her life. Lupita arrives in Michtlan where she is received by La Catrina and her happy court. However, Lupita is sad because she did not get to say goodbye to her love, prompting La Catrina to grant Lupita a chance to return to the world of the living for one final dance. La Catrina leaves with Lupita, but not before she reassures Raul that one day he will be reunited with his love in the world of the departed. This gives Raul hope and joy as he decorates and cares for Lupita's resting place.
What a wonderful show! The costumes were just beautiful and the live music was the perfect cherry on top. Being that I have seen the company perform at a number of previous engagements, I have never seen anything like this. It was a nice mix of traditional dance with a hint of Western dance forms such as ballet. It is different, but it shows how powerful dance can be. And what a talented group of dancers! They perform with such athleticism with the men's high jumps and kicks, and grace as the women danced while balancing candles on their heads.
Calpulli Mexican Dance Company is a Queens-based Dance Company that looks to celebrate the rich diversity of Mexican and Mexican-American culture through dance and music. In this show, they have taken the charge of having Mexican traditional dance, with a captivating love story, while fusing it with diverse styles of dance vocabulary and technique. This collaborative effort highlights the indescribable beauty that is found in the universal language of dance. It is a new opportunity to expand artistic inspiration and connect with audiences, both new and old, in a different way.
If you haven't seen the amazing work of this company, you are missing out! They are truly a terrific company. Be sure to save the date on either March 18th or 19th, 2017, for the company's return to the Queens Theatre for a special presentation entitled Boda Mexicana (Mexican Wedding) that will explore the many wedding/marriage traditions found throughout various parts of Mexico.
Photo Credit: StefAnie Delgado