Thursday, May 7, 2020

Danza - The Timely Power of Collective Culture

In the age of social media, culture can often be reduced to a glance or gesture to attract maximum, momentary impact. it is certainly not the optimal platform to share a Mexican danza, especially as practiced by young students. Danzas are reverential, lengthy rituals practiced traditionally throughout Mexico. They are aimed at honoring a greater power, not the ego of the individual. Their intention is humility, participation and reverence, not performance or competition. 

In 2002, master folk artist Julian Gonzalez SaldaƱa, from Jalisco, Mexico, taught our student dancers and musicians the many movements of Danza de los Copetones in its entirety. He oversaw the creation of the costumes for which each dancer decorated their own copete, or headpiece, for which he cut bamboo that he found at the entrances of local freeways. Our teachers Marie-Astrid Do-Rodriguez, Lucina Rodriguez, and Tregar Otton taught our students to express the meaning and nuances of the costumes, dance and music. And we presented the danza to initiate one of our annual festivals at the San Pablo Civic Center. 

This video is unlikely to be viewed in its entirety, given its length, repetition, and imperfections. And that is ok. This was not it’s intention. Rather, we hope that people might scan through the video and consider the deeper intention of this collective effort and the earnest, dedicated student attention required for its preparation, rehearsal and presentation. 

Our recreation of Danza de los Copetones was not about attracting attention to the individuals involved. It was about honoring our collective spirit with humility - something that many of us are trying to practice today in the era of Covid-19. For that reason, I decided to finally edit this footage in full and share it. 18 years later. To remind ourselves that the power of cultural art, like the power of nature itself, is much greater than any one of us. And that only our collective spirit can light our path forward.