Saturday, March 30, 2013

Competition Movie Time! - Week 13

Welcome Romania to the journey!  Happy Easter everyone!  Due to the busy holiday on Sunday, I am publishing a day early this week.  Wow!  Here we are at week 13, a quarter of the blogging journey is complete!  That was quick.  Some say that the number 13 is unlucky or bad.  I think it's great because I get to provide you another post for your reading entertainment!  This week is about the folklorico competition.  What more can I say other than "Bring It On!"


In the summer of 2012, Richard was notified that there was going to be a folklorico competition in Anaheim, California on August 12th - The Third Annual Ballet Folklorico Competition at the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace.  Three judges were being selected for the event.  Richard, after going through several qualifying interviews, was selected to sit on the panel as one of the three judges. 

The competition featured over 20 folklorico groups from Orange County, the Inland Empire and Los Angeles.  There were three age categories for groups to compete in - ages 9 and under, ages 10 - 15, ages 16 and over.  The first-place winner in each age category was awarded a $500 cash prize. 

Competing groups were required to have a minimum of four dancers and a maximum of twelve.  Each group had to present a monograph which included a description of the costumes, the region they were dancing, the culture and the music, in Spanish prior to performing.  Some groups presented in both English and Spanish which was nice for us non-Spanish speaking folks.  After they presented the introduction, each group performed for 7 to 10 minutes.

The event began at 11am and was open to the public free of charge.  Although it was a competition, the event was created to "preserve the Mexican heritage through dance and to present a show with amazing spirit and cultural pride."  The event took place in La Placita at the Anaheim Marketplace, which was outdoors.  There was a covered stage and a covered seating area for spectators.  Most of the competition took place in the heat of the day and weather records indicate the temperature in Anaheim that day was 103 degrees!  Toasty!

As far as judging criteria and guidelines, groups had to select a region to present.  The regions allowed for this event were:

Central Mexico - Includes Michoacan, Nayarit, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, and Jalisco
Southern Mexico - Includes Guerrero, Puebla, and Oaxaca
Northern Mexico - Includes Sinaloa and Tamaulipas
Baja California - North or South

The Judges

Judging Criteria included:

Appearance, Makeup and Accessories, Costumes fitting the region, Music true to the region, Precision and Execution of the steps, Expression and Movement, Choreography and Stage Use, Showmanship and Enthusiasm, Originality. 

There was also this statement:  "Although the Anaheim Marketplace instills traditional folkloric, groups are allowed to be as original, unique, and creative as they want to be with their choreography and/or costumes as long as they are kept true to the region they are representing during the competition."

Each criteria category had a designated point value and after the judges scored, the points were added up and the best out of 100 possible points took 1st place.  Awards were given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each age category.


The day of the event fell during the week of my 38th birthday.  My niece, Sarah, flew out from Michigan to spend the week with me.  Although Herencia Mexicana did not compete, as Herencia is solely a performing company and not a competing group, some of the members from the group went to watch the competition.  I was one of the dancers from Herencia in attendance that day along with my niece.  It was both Sarah's and my first time ever seeing a folklorico competition.  We were a couple of wedos about to get educated!

My niece Sarah (with Richard & the Big Wedo)

The judges took their places and the show kicked off with a performance by some Bolivian dancers.  Then it was time for the competition to begin.  The first age group to perform that day were the adults, 16 and over.  The first group to perform set the standard.  They were amazing and suddenly I realized I have a tremendous amount of work to do still.  They were Broadway stage ready.  Nearly flawless and superbly entertaining.  WOW!  For the next several hours the adults performed and the temperature kept on climbing.  It was miserable out there.  Why August to hold an outdoor competition is beyond my understanding.  I realize that the motherland of the dance, Mexico, is a hot place.  But this was just ridiculous.  

Every imaginable variable was represented, from young to old, big to small, amateur to professional and so on.  It was a wonderful show and there was an exciting energy in the air.  Everyone brought their "A" game.  By the attitude, energy and expression of the dancers, you would have never even known that it was 103 degrees out there.  The performers all rose to the occasion and performed with a smile and showed no signs of fatigue or misery.  How they did all that in those thick, heavy, layered costumes is mind boggling.  Perhaps I'm just a spoiled prima donna because there is no way I could perform under those conditions and pretend it was a cool fall day.  In fact, after the adult portion of the show, Sarah and I retreated back to our car to sit in the air conditioning until the award ceremony later that evening.  Meanwhile, the two other age groups performed.  The place was packed with spectators regardless of the scorching heat.  I guess wedos just can't handle the heat!

Later that evening the award ceremony took place and everyone waited in anticipation for the results, the judges included.  The winners were announced.  I agree with the results of the adult competition winners and ranking.  Of course, I'm not a folklorico expert of any kind, but I would say based on entertainment value alone, their ranking was accurate.  The group that kicked off the event took 2nd place.  However, it wasn't really about the competition or the awards, it was a day dedicated to folklorico and the preservation of Mexican culture.


Personally, I don't care for competing that much.  In high school and college I participated in many music competitions.  Some people live for it and there is some gratifying satisfaction in being labelled "the best".  But for me, I can do without it.  After this folklorico competition, there was a lot of talk about it among dancers in the folklorico community - both positive and negative.  Everyone
has an opinion out there and is entitled to it.  I like to think the only competition is with yourself!

From my analysis I think where the problem with a folklorico competition lies is with the criteria and judging requirements themselves.  There is no governing organization over folklorico.  In the Olympics, there is a governing organization and the minimal requirements for a routine are clearly stated.  There is also a set standard for executing certain elements - a right way and a wrong way.  Take figure skating for example.  They may say that a figure skater has to do a double axel in the routine, that's the minimal requirement.  Now, if the skater is able to do a triple axel, then they have the option of doing that in place of the double, thus going above and beyond, for the higher score.   

Folklorico is different.  Originality is encouraged, yet there is this concept of being true to the region.  Personally, modern day folklorico is very different than folklorico dancing in its original state.  Much of what is seen today is based upon a style and period of time but has developed over time.  Folklorico has evolved and is ever changing.  There are common practices and aspects according to the region, but they are not necessarily "true".  They are more of an adaption to fit our time and entertainment expectations in my opinion.  I recommend reading my post called "What Is Folk Dancing? - Week 10" for more details on folk dance origins and use.  

So, If it were my way. I would change the statement "true to the region" to, "what is commonly accepted in folklorico circles as "true.""  Another observation I made, dance styles of the different regions vary and each have their own unique feel to them.  Slower dances may be masterfully done but may not create the excitement in the crowd.  Whereas some high energy regions may get the crowd going but may not be performed as well.  So competing groups that are "in it to win it" have to choose the region carefully and work all the angles.  

Granted competition organizers want to draw a crowd and showcase many different regions to keep it interesting for the audience.  But I feel that in the effort of fairness and getting everyone on an equal playing field, one region for all groups to execute should be selected.  For example, all groups would perform Jalisco and one dance required to perform could be the Jarabe Tapitio.  The best performance would then take first place.  You could still have multiple regions for the competition, however; each region would be evaluated separately.  Just my thoughts. 

Although many declare that the Amalia Hernandez style of folklorico is the right standard for all groups to be judged upon, not all Mexican folk dancing groups utilize her style today.  My view may be an unpopular one, but let me clarify.  First let me say that I have nothing against the Amalia Hernandez style.  There are several folklorico dancing academies established that teach her style.  But I don't think that her style should be the only basis to judge upon in these competitions unless it is specifically stated that her dancing style, techniques, etc are the criteria being used.  In a future post on the modern folklorico movement, I will explore how folklorico has developed and those who were instrumental in doing so - you can't write about that without mentioning Amalia Hernandez.

Several who competed in this event felt the judging should have been based on her style alone, since that is the style their group utilizes.   I think that it would be beneficial if the "rules" of folklorico were clarified for everyone.  I think a good debate would be:  What are the hard core unbending rules?  I think that there are definitely some commonly accepted folklorico practices and a lot of preferences and styles, but are these the official rules?  Don't misunderstand me here, I believe there is a standard and there are some absolutes, I just believe they could be clarified better.  Perhaps I should write a book called, The Absolutes In Folklorico Dancing.  But creating such a thing would to some extent ruin folk dancing and the freedom of expression that goes along with it.   

At the end of the day, it's not my decision to make.  Unless of course, I promote a folklorico competition myself.  At this point, I don't see that happening.  Perhaps there should just be auditions for groups to perform in a folklorico showcase event and then one group is awarded "Best In Show" based on audience response.  Even then, that somewhat undermines technique and discipline.  I think I just need to put it to rest....moving on! 


All this talk about competition reminds me of the movie "Bring It On!"  It made me think about an adaption of the movie embracing the theme of competitive folklorico dancing!  How cool is that?  I think it's a great idea.  Instead of the Toros verses the Clovers, I would create a plot of The Wedos verses La Familia!  I can see it now, The Wedos led by the One Big Wedo go up against La Familia in a fierce folklorico battle show down.  Of course, Richard would be the leader of La Familia.  I see his character played by Mario Lopez because no one works dimples better.  Well, no one better other than Richard himself that is.  Let's not forget to mention Mario has great hair too.   

My character, The Big Wedo, could be played by Vin Diesel.  Why?  Because he's got a shaved head like me and for once in my lifetime I'm going to have an incredible body like that.  After all this is fiction and I get to "make believe it" in my own special way.  Ladies and gentlemen, eat your heart out!  However, I have been told several times that I look like Kevin Spacey's character from the movie Seven.  Yikes!  What do you think?  I vote Vin!


I shared this movie idea with a friend of mine who is a published author and has written many scripts and such.  He had an interesting idea for a movie and I ran with his idea too.  Here's the plot.  La Familia reluctantly accepts the Big Wedo into their folklorico group.  Not making the cut, the Big Wedo does not get to compete with the group in the folklorico competition.  The day of the competition arrives and the Big Wedo goes to support the group.  Minutes before La Familia takes the stage their lead male dancer has a tragic event happen.  Not necessarily a tragic event like the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Olympic incident.  I'm thinking more along the lines of eating way too much chocolate and having a cleansing moment hit, perhaps a competing group spikes his ground beef taco with lettuce, onion and cheese (my personal favorite), with a laxative or something.  Regardless, it's the Big Wedo's opportunity to step in.  The Big Wedo takes the stage with La Familia and leads them to victory!  GO BIG WEDO! 

The movie ends with a scene that takes place 100 years in the future.  There you see a bronze monument of a string bean of a man with a pouch for a belly in a charro suit and sombrero, located in the middle of Olvera Street.  A plaque on the monument reads "The Big Wedo (A.K.A. Miquel de wedo):  Led La Familia, representing the City of Los Angeles, to victory in the great folklorico battle of 2014.  Viva los gueros!"  An old Mexican man rests against the monument strumming his guitar.  A young boy walks up to take a look at the statue and the man says, "Have you ever heard the legend of the Great Wedo?"  The scene fades away with the old man sharing with the young boy the legend and that's the end of the movie.

Of course regardless of the plot, I would like to have a cameo appearance in the film.  I've even written the scene.  I would like to play the nemesis of the Big Wedo!  Every good plot has a nemesis!  Here's how I imagine it!  The Big Wedo practices day and night folklorico steps and routines, even at his work which is at a warehouse in the desert.  Sound familiar?  From the beach community, the Big Wedo's nemesis, Bigger Wedo, also practices folklorico day and night.  The Big Wedo dances with La Familia Ballet Folklorico and The Bigger Wedo dances with La Familia Original Ballet Folklorico.  The stage is set and the plot thickens!

The Big Wedo gets off his graveyard shift at the warehouse in the desert early in the morning and begins to head towards Los Angeles.  This is a great opportunity to capture film shots of The Big Wedo crossing the desert on foot doing folklorico dance steps as he travels.  Similarly, at Santa Monica Pier, The Bigger Wedo sets out towards Los Angeles as well practicing his folklorico steps as he travels.  Midday, the two wedos meet at the Mariachi Gazebo in downtown Los Angeles.  Let the showdown ensue! 

Like a scene from a classic western, the two wedos size each other up.  Cue tumbleweed blowing by and crow cawing from power line nearby.  The Big Wedo says, "You think you can dance wedo?"  The Bigger Wedo replies, "I know I can dance wedo!"  Then as they stare each other down and circle each other, The Big Wedo says, "Let's do this wedo.  Prove It!"  and he procedes to do a folklorico step.  The Bigger Wedo repeats the step in reply back.  So The Big Wedo does a more difficult sequence of steps.  Again, The Bigger Wedo replies back repeating the same sequence of steps.  Then out of no where RuPaul show up on the scene sporting her bedazzled folklorico best.  RuPaul says, "Fellas, fellas!  You got to dance for your life!"  Suddenly Mariachi Sol De Mexico, or other famous mariachi, begins to play La Negra and the wedos duke it out in dance!

As the wedos are having their folklorico dance off, Jennifer Lopez arrives in full Jalisco costume to dance with one wedo and then the other.  As this is going on Mariachi Plaza begins to fill with all kinds of Spanish, Latin, Hispanic, Mexican celebrities, icons and impersonators.  Vicente Fernandez arrives in full charro riding a horse.  Nacho Libre comes and sits down on a colorful serape.  Other cast members to include are Charo (not charro), Rosie Perez, Michael Pena, Jimmy Smits, Edward James Olmos, Pepe Serna and so on until the whole plaza is full of them.  Mingled among them, folklorico dancers and mariachi.  And of course, Richard Simmons has to be there too.  Why?  Because it just makes the whole scene more interesting.   Shoot!  Pee Wee Herman could ride through on his bike at this point.        

The scene reaches a climax and the two wedos collapse from exhaustion and as their bodies hit the pavement everyone shouts, "Ole!"  Then Richard Simmons comes a running and says, "Don't worry I can help them!"  The mariachis all shrug their shoulders and then start to play another famous jam.  This time all the celebrities and folklorico dancers in the whole plaza start to dance and put on a dance scene that would rival that of Moulin Rouge! 

There you have it!  That would be my big acting debut!  What do you think?  Be sure to visit my Facebook page: One Big Wedo (Guero) to vote for Vin or Kevin and to leave me your celebrity cast recommendations!  

That's all I've got for this week.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Send me some of your movie ideas.  Until next week - this wedo out!

Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":

Google E-mail:
Facebook: One Big Wedo (Guero)
Twitter: Michael Smith @onebigwedo

Contact Information for Ballet Folklorico de Herencia Mexicana:

Richard Solorzano, Director: (909) 201-1957
Facebook: Herencia Mexicana

Note: Looking for your own adventure or journey? Herencia is a great place to find one! Folklorico lessons and performances are both available. Herencia Mexicana performs for private & public events of all kinds. Book your event today! Herencia Mexicana welcomes new students. No previous folklorico or dance experience required. All are welcome.

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