Mexican Traditions Evolve Into New Art Forms In Los Angeles

Noche Veracruzana At Ford Amphitheatre, September 4

By Diana Martinez
Published on LatinoLA: August 31, 2010

Mexican Traditions Evolve Into New Art Forms In Los Angeles

If you think you've seen and heard the full array of Mexican folklorico dance and music, you haven't. At least not until you've seen the performance, Noche Veracruzana set for this Saturday, September 4th at the Ford Amphitheatre.

With a unique sound born in Veracruz, Mexico created by an Afro and mestizo past that many are still discovering, this music fused with the gentle formality of danzon. This unique art form has crossed the U.S. border and created a new movement here in Los Angeles of musicians and dancers performing yet a new expression of this traditional music.

The audience won't see groups performing independently. They'll see a full production that expresses years of history and culture. "With Noche Veracruzana here in Los Angeles, we're adding our own influence," said Javier Verdin, co-founder of Ballet Folklorico Ollin.

An example of a shared culture is no more evident as Noche Veracruzana, part of the Mexico series for the Ford Amphitheatre, also kicks off National Hispanic Heritage Month in Los Angeles. Also recognized on both sides of the border is the beginning of celebrations in September that mark the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence.

"The influence of this music and dance isn't new," Verdin points out.

"All Americans know the popular song 'La Bamba' performed by Ritchie Valens, but don't realize that when they're singing that song, they're actually singing a son Jarocho that originated from Veracruz and a song that is 200 years old," said Verdin. "'La Bamba' is now considered music that is part of our American fabric. We are performing and exploring even more beautiful Veracruz music and dance and popularizing it through performances like Noche Veracruzana at the Ford Amphitheatre."

From the San Fernando Valley, Ballet Folklorico Ollin has embraced the huasteco and jarocho movement, pushing the art of "zapateado" (footwork) to new heights with the other talented musicians and dance groups performing next Saturday. Ballet Ollin, joined by the young yet powerful Chuchin Dance Company, based in Boyle Heights, is known for their contemporary and very modern Mexican dance theatre. Filling in as guest choreographers and with new energy, Chuchin adds their interpretation of Afro-Mexican dance to the program.

Also performing are Conjunto Tenocelomeh, the great keepers of folk music, known for their active role in the Encuentro Jaranero movement here in Los Angeles along with Hermanos Herrera, a family of master musicians considered experts in Mexican regional music. In addition, not to be missed are the young musicians who can give any adult group a run for their money: Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando. They are considered the finest student musicians from the Mariachi Master Apprentice Program (MMAP), with teachers from the famous Los Camperos.

It's unusual to see a full performance devoted to the son jarocho and son huasteco music of Veracruz, all with L.A. talent, but on Saturday those that attend the performance will see both traditional Mexican with a taste of Los Angeles, which will include a fandango danced on small wooden boxes, danzones and stunniing costuming. The performance planned for Noche Veracruzana will push the envelope to bring an evolution of music and dance to the stage.

"We will be weaving and blending all of these groups together. It won't be like watching independent groups taking turns performing," said Verdin, "All of our performing groups are all from Los Angeles and the surrounding area. We don't have to fly anyone in from Mexico. Mexican traditions are our American traditions and we have an abundance of talented dancers and musicians know and understand the art and are adding their own talent.

Los Hermanos Herrera, a family group of five brothers an their younger sister, all UCLA grads, are a vital musical ingredient and a perfect example. The group made history with their most recent son huasteco CD. It received commercial radio play in both the U.S. and Mexico, a first for the son huasteco genre, and the group was awarded the "Sol Poniente" Lifetime achievement award in Veracruz, Mexico. Mexico gave their highest award to U.S. born musicians.

Ballet Folklorico Ollin, a community dance company has three generations of dancers performing. "We have dancers that we've trained from the age of 5 to 95," said co-founder Virginia Diediker.

"You'll see a variety of talented people on stage Saturday that reflect the Los Angeles/U.S-born Mexican art community, who share a love for their history and family's traditions. The dance and music from Veracruz interpreted by L.A. musicians and dancers will make everyone want to clap their hands, sing and get up and dance this Saturday."

Tickets are still available at the Ford. Go to www.FordTheatres.org or call 323 461-3673.

About Diana Martinez:
Diana Martinez is an award winning journalist . She received the 2010 Ruben Salazar Award for her coverage of police illegally ticketing day laborers. She is the editor of the San Fernando Sun/El Sol Newspaper.
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