Arts & Entertainment

Mexican dance collective explores living legacy of indigenous textile-making

By Monica Rubalcava

Mexico City, Mar 4 (EFE).- A contemporary dance performance that explores the sounds, the feel and the cultural significance of indigenous textile-making and is the result of years of multi-disciplinary research is to be held Friday night at Mexico City’s Teatro de la Ciudad Esperanza Iris.

“It’s a live dance, ever-changing and speaking to us about who we are, what we’re experiencing and sharing,” Wendy del Castillo, the choreographer of “Urdimbre,” said in an interview with Efe.

That initiative of the Khamsa Dance Project, a collective headed by Aline del Castillo, is in keeping with its mission to explore aspects that foster a greater understanding of Mexican cultural identity.

“Textiles speak to us about memory, who we are, our legacy, what our ancestors left behind, the wisdom we have” acquired, said Del Castillo, who underscored the essential role of women in that art form.

The choreographer said she launched the project in 2015 without a clear idea of what the end result would be, although the long-term vision of that collective of dancers, musicians and choreographers was to produce a work for the stage.

After a fundraising effort, the group’s members made a series of trips in 2016 to communities in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Hidalgo and Puebla, where they met with female artisans to learn first-hand about the history of these textiles.

That research effort went well beyond the technical aspects of that craft and explored the lives of these artisans.

“We weren’t interested in this ending up being a didactic (look) at textiles because we saw a lot of very profound things during these trips … we went there seeking out the history behind the textiles, and what we found was our own history. We saw ourselves reflected in the people we were with on these trips,” Del Castillo said.

The dance performance hearkens back to those experiences, featuring video fragments that document that collective’s research process, its interactions with the artisans and the cultural exchanges that occurred.

The choreographer also stressed the cultural richness and linguistic diversity they encountered during their visits.

“It was beautiful and revealing to see that each (indigenous) language has a way of understanding the world, and that the embroidery and weaving of the Amuzgos are not same as the Otomis,” she added.

The violinist and musical director of the Khamsa Dance Project, Cesar Valentin Solis, told Efe the challenge in creating original pieces for the live performances was to venture outside the ordinary.

“The most obvious answer (to what textiles sound like) was like a loom and the people (who work that apparatus). But we wanted to go beyond what the machine, the hands, sound like. We wanted to seek out the sounds of the place where the people work,” Solis said.

“Ninety percent of what will be heard was recorded in the field,” Solis said, adding that the project was inspired by the music of the communities they visited but steered clear of what might be considered “folklore,” the musician said.

“Something very important that moved us from the beginning was getting there and seeing there are two ‘Mexicos’: the magical Mexico that is what’s packaged and sold, what the Tourism Secretariat says, and the real Mexico,” he added.

Solis insisted that his work is based on the latter, on Mexico in all its complexity – not always beautiful but always of aesthetic value.

“Urdimbre” is part of the three-month “Nosotras somos memoria” (We Are Memory) cycle in Mexico City that is being held to pay tribute to female art and mark International Women’s Day, which is celebrated annually on March 8. EFE


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