REVIEW: UMS 101 Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández

Going to Ballet Folklórico on Sunday, February 6th was one of the best impulsive decisions I have made this year so far. Tucked away in the third-floor balcony seat on the day of the performance, I didn’t realize that my neck is hurting so much from craning to get better until the show was finished. Awestruck by the musical inspiration that the orchestra provided and dazed by the swirling colorful skirts, I found myself registering for the follow-up seminar event, UMS 101: Ballet Folklórico, held at Cahoots on February 9th.

The event was led by Susan Quintanilla, the founder, and director of El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil. She gave a presentation to deepen the understanding about the performance; ranging from the diversity of dance depending on region, how the dance is a fusion of different cultures and demonstration of stage costumes used in the performance. Up close, the costumes were more colorful and detailed than what I expected when I was seeing the performance. Those layers of laces in skirts! The presentation was accompanied by a band from the same organization consisting of violins, trumpets, a guitarron, a vihuela, and a guitar. Every once in a while, the audience had the pleasure of hearing live music that was mentioned in the presentation. Perhaps the instrument that caught the audience’s attention the most was the guitarron-a gigantic guitar with a convex body that makes woody, deep sounds. It plays a similar role to drum and bass in a rock band setting, although it had the gorgeous and humorous sound that only a wooden string instrument could make.

The scholastic, appreciative atmosphere of the program changed 360 degrees when Ms. Quintanilla invited everyone to learn a few dance moves from the ballet. We learned four or five dance moves and danced under Ms. Quintanilla’s instruction as the band played along. I enjoyed myself highly, although I was glad that the conference room wasn’t surrounded by mirrors as God had not granted me the talent in dancing. The opportunity to dance to great live music was a rare one, so I was highly honored that I could fumble and skip to the gorgeous sound of the band. Even though the audience consisted of people of different ages, all the people seem to be enjoying themselves a lot as they skipped, turned, and explored dance moves. Later, the session ended with a gorgeous singalong lead by the band and free and open questions and answers.

The questions were usually focused on the magical experience that the majority of the audience had experienced in the performance. We learned the secret of how the dancers could change so quickly, that the band follows the dance rather than vice versa, which is very unique, and other backstage stories that only people who have experience of performing dance could have. I couldn’t resist the urge to ask whether the shoes that make the merry ‘clink’ sounds are heavy or not and got a very sincere reply from the performers themselves that it wasn’t heavy at all.

Of course, I became to love the performance even more after learning more about it. Our little dance experience, the awe of listening to the harmony of the band once again, the experience of liveliness, all of it was great but to summarize what I really loved about this special experience in one sentence: I loved that the performance in itself is a celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The ballet included diverse traditional dances from different regions of Mexico. Moreover, the conversion is not limited to the inside of Mexican borders-we watched a German dance performance the band demonstrated a piece of Mexican dance music influenced by music from the video. I’m pretty sure that anyone from any cultural background would find something to love in ballet Folklórico. Next time, if the team hit the town again, please invest an afternoon on it- you’ll have the impulsion, like me, to drive to Flint, the location of the headquarter of the company, to see more of the colorful wonders.


*The Featured image is the promotion image of the dance company that ran the workshop, not the image of the event


Review: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán

I was waiting for this show for a long time and what a lovely evening it turned out to be!

First we were greeted with an excellent rendition of  “El pastor” by the cute and gifted Sebastian de la Cruz, (all of eight years old!), who was selected to be the best in his category in 2009 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Competition. My goodness, his yoddling was so awesome! If at eight, he can sing so well, just imagine what wonders he will do in the musical world when he grows up! The winner of the best female voice in the competition, Karenn Lazo dazzled next! She was all grace and her voice was so powerful!

Sebastien and Karenn performing

Next came the much awaited mariachi band, all spectacular in their costumes and the extravaganza began! What powerful voices & what energy!  What grace, what awesome stage presence! It was really something to be watching that! The songs kept coming one after the other and the strumming of the guitars, the exceptional violin playing, the awesome trumpets, the joking, the dancing  and the most beautiful combination of voices- it was just mindblowing!

I was so happy and grinning from ear to ear the whole time as the music was simply superb. There was so much of variety and so much going on. What clarity in their voices!  The energy and enthusiasm was so infectious- the band played non-stop for almost two and a half hours and it was a big party!

Some of my favorites in the show were “POR AMOR” (POR AMOR– watch this!),Vaqueros, hermoso cariño, Cielito Lindo Son Juasteco and this one- Por ti volare (you really must must see this!).

I was amazed at the multi-tasking of the members. One would come sing (do a lil jig too), and then go play the guitar or the violin and be a part of the chorus! My god- what stamina they must have! It was really a treat to watch them and at the end of the show, the performance had moved me to tears as the music touched me so deeply. I LOVE them!

The Mariachi Vargas band, courtesy UMS
The Mariachi Vargas band, courtesy UMS

The audience was amazing, singing along to most of the songs. In fact, many knew almost all the songs and the band gave a chance to a gentleman in the audience who did a great job (with José ‘Pepe’ Martinez jokingly trying to get the mike away as the singer sang the whole song!)

I was really very very happy after the show, one of the best I have ever seen in the Hill auditorium. This performance of Mariachi Vargas ranks really high in my all-time favorites! I hope I can watch another live performance of them sometime as this is definitely my kind of music! 🙂

Preview: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán

I can’t remember any another event for which I have been as excited as for this one-  Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán’s performance at the Hill tomorrow! I have really waited for this show for a long time now (well, since I came to know that they were coming!).

Anyway, I am learning Spanish presently and so am getting exposed to a whole lot of new stuff- culture, music, dance and of course the language! So as part of the class, we learnt a little about the music in Hispanic countries and we learnt about ranchera and of course, mariachis of Mexico. I spent some time listening to mariachi music  on youtube and guess who  is considered to be among the best and the finest of the mariachi bands – the granddad of all mariachis, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

This group is really old (it was started in 1897) and has been passed down five generations! For once, ‘old is gold ‘ is an expression perfectly suitable for this kind of music.  This is the kind of music that will make you want to dance with no inhibitions. The band sings the traditional Mexican folk  (like boleros, rancheras, sones) and have incorporated a lot of modern music as well without sacrificing the charm of the original music. It will be a fun evening and I really hope that you get to be part of this fun!

So people, I will see you tomorrow (Friday, Nov 5) at the Hill Auditorium @ 8 pm, verdad? Tickets at Michigan League Ticket Office.

Hasta pronto!