Friday, May 31, 2013

The World of Workshops - Week 22

Welcome back everyone to One Big Wedo.  Here we are at week 22, almost half way through the journey!  Lots of exciting posts coming up, be sure to keep checking back because you'll never know what you may find!  You might just be surprised!  This week Bosnia and Herzegovina checked in - Welcome!  It's nice to know that people all over the globe are reading and enjoying the blog.  I can't wait to see how this all wraps up at the end of the year.  And then what?  Hmmm, time will tell. 

Did you know that you can create a One Big Wedo icon link for your iphone?  Neither did I until someone showed me how this past weekend!  How cool is that!  It's so easy.  Technology is amazing!  I'm not certain, but you may be able to do it on other smart phones too.  Give it a try!  Here's how to do it.  First, you have to go to my page on your phone using Safari, Google or web browser of your choice.  Here's my web address:   Once there, press on the "box and arrow" function key on your phone and it will give you a list of options.  Press "Add To Home Screen" and voila, instant icon link on your phone!  Now you can just press and read.  I did it on my phone even though I write these wonderful pieces of literature!  Ok that's a stretch, creative writings rather.

Before we get started, I am amazed at how people continue to correct me on the word "guero"!  I am constantly being reminded that I spelled it wrong or that I left the dots over the "u" off.  I put it to rest weeks and weeks ago, but I have been bombarded the past couple weeks with people correcting me.  Perhaps it's because there are many new readers to the blog and they don't know all the history.  So I've tried all the web recommendations and instructions on how to do the umlaut on the "American Keyboard" with no success!  AYE!  I just don't think it was meant for me to do it!  But I promise to keep trying and looking further into it.  And as far as the word guero itself, I've been corrected repeatedly on how the word is spelled.  Some of the recent spellings are:  Guerro, Guedo, Huedo, Wero, Guelo, Wello.  One person even called me a "Whitexican" on Facebook.  Wow, the terms just keep coming, don't they?  I think it has gone far enough, let's have a council on the subject of guero and make an official ruling!  In the mean time, I just keep adding to the "guero" list.  Thanks everyone for your concern for the wedo's vocabulary and grammar well being.

With that said, let's get started.  With the holiday last Monday and being off work, it was a short week for me to write.  That's alright, because I'm certain that I will make up for it in the future.  This week I'm writing about folklorico workshops! 

The World Of Workshops:

Just like Santa has his workshop where he and his elves build toys for children all over the world, folklorico has workshops to build dancers.  Workshops can take a variety of forms, whether they be master classes, one or multiple day workshops, seminars/conferences, voyages to study under a maestro of dance and so on.  The ultimate goal is to learn technique and develop your understanding and skills which will make you a better dancer overall.  Oftentimes, they take you away from your comfort zone and expose areas you need to work on.  They are a great tool to utilize for growth.  Plus when you finish, hopefully you can share the knowledge with other dancers in your circle of folklorico influence.

While dancing with Imagenes, they had a guest teacher come and show us the region of Colima.  This particular teacher had spent time in Mexico to learn Colima regional dances and all the nuances and specifics that make that region unique.  She spent several weeks with us, giving master classes and working with us to learn the material.  Although I never fully learned the dances, nor performed them for that matter, it was fun to be exposed to them.  They reminded me a little bit of the Jalisco style of dancing.  I could also see some influence from Michoacan dances too.  This makes sense to me now because Jalisco and Michoacan are neighbors to Colima.  I am so happy that I am growing in my understanding of Mexico and the intertwining of influence and culture.

Here is a little history on Colima courtesy of

"Colima is located in west central Mexico and is bordered by the state of Jalisco to the north, east and west.  The state of Michoacan is south east and the Pacific Ocean is to the south.  Although Colima is one of Mexico's smallest states, it is a favorite with its tropical beaches, extraordinary scenery and rich history.  "Colima," in the indigenous Nahuatl language, translates to, "place conquered by our grandparents" or, "place where the older God dominates, " according to the website.  The Otomi, Nahuatl, Tolteca, Chichimeca and Tarasca cultures thrived between approximately 2000 B.B. and 1000 A.D., as stated on  The Spanish arrived around 1522, led by Juan Rodrigues de Villafuentes, Juan Alvarez Chico, and Cristobal de Olid.  After obvious and successful resistance from the native people, a battle was won by Gonzalo de Sandoval in 1523 and a Spanish settlement was formed,  In 1540, a road was constructed between Colima and Mexico City and Colima became know as a center of commerce.  The fight for Mexican independence started in 1810 and Colima became a Mexican State in 1857.  Today, Colima is part of 'The Magic Towns of Mexico," a program of the tourism ministry that encourages economic development and restores and preserves cultural heritage."

Here are a couple video links of Colima dances being performed by Images of Mexico.  Enjoy!  Note:  These are informal videos that are not costumed performances.


I'm going to learn them eventually and hopefully have an opportunity to perform them someday! 

In addition to learning dances, steps, history and choreography, workshops also provide technique building exercises and routines.  These are called "technica".  I would compare it a pianist practicing scales or Hanon exercises or a vocalist practicing Vaccai methodology.  Technica is often shortened to sound like "tee-kah", which I am not sure exactly how to spell it, perhaps tica, teca, techca, teka, teche or techa works!  Take your pick!  Anyways, here is a short video of technica:   

In December 2012, Herencia Mexicana IE held a workshop for some folklorico students at Franklin Elementary School in Redlands, California.  That Saturday morning Richard taught the region of Jalisco with the help of a couple of us from the IE group.  It was fun to help out that day and the students caught on quick!  Oh to be young again!  I can't wait to go back and do it again someday. 

Here is what the Houston Institute for Culture states about the Jalisco region:

"The Spanish colonized this area for an extended time. The men wore the big sombreros and the traditional Spanish charro suit with the silver studs on the pants and a big bow. The women folklorico wear is a ranchero design dress with unmistakable Indian influenced bright colored ribbons. This is the national representation for Mexican dance as is the Mexican hat dance which comes from this state. Jarabes, which means "sweet syrup," are best known as many of the dances are those of courtship and very flirtatious. This is also the birthplace of los mariachis -- the orchestras with trumpets, acoustics, violins."

On Saturday January 26, 2013 Danzantes Del Sol presented a Guerrero and Tamaulipas Workshop at South El Monte High School.  The region of Guerrero was taught by maestro Joel Sandoval.  The region of Tamaulipas was taught by maestro Rafael Valpuesta.  Both men are studied and experienced dancers.  I wanted to have the experience of going to an official folklorico workshop.  So I signed up to go.  I wanted to see if I could keep up in the classes with other dancers.  I also wanted to learn as much as I could.  It was do or die time!

The day started bright and early with a 9:00 am registration time.  The cost for both regions was $50.00 per person which included a copy of the music.  After several cups of coffee and a light breakfast it was time to get started.  At 10:00 am the event kicked off with the region of Guerrero. 

Here is what The Houston Institute for Culture states about Guerrero dancing:

"Guerrero is a tropical state on the Pacific coast. It was not only a haven to Asian influences that strayed and landed on its coast, but also a haven for run-away black slaves. In a presentation coordinated by the state of Guerrero, I witnessed a dance that looked like an old cliché about Africans dancing around a fire and being chased by a tiger. This was one of the folk dances archived by African slaves. The Africans also brought us the drum rhythms of cumbias and salsas. The Spanish slave trade distributed the sound in all of the Latin countries. I also heard a very Mexican sounding music from a line-up of Mexicans dressed in the traditional white pants and shirt, palm weave hat and huaraches. The women wore a shift dress with embroidered flowers, and their hair up in a bun. What was different? One appeared European looking; one black; one Asian; one Indian; and one was mestizo... the Mexican melting pot."

The Guerrero portion of the workshop lasted from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm and then there was a break for lunch.  Guerrero dancing is done with a bandanna in hand that is twirled while dancing.  The bandanna is also used to communicate with your partner, which is something specific that I learned from this workshop.  One aspect of Guerrero is that has a lot of turns in many of the dances.  That makes this wedo get dizzy!  All that spinning at my ages makes my core unstable.  Call me Weeble Wobble! 

When I first joined Herencia, Richard was teaching Guerrero.  It was one of the first dances I learned, although I have never performed it.  I remember how amazed I was and the joy I felt as I started to get the footwork down.  I could hardly believe that I was doing it and that the sound of the steps were actually coming from me!  I worked so hard because I wanted to impress Richard and for others to take me seriously.  With no real previous dance training, I had a lot to prove.  Richard enjoyed the Guerrero workshop so much that he invited Joel Sandoval to come hold a workshop for Herencia during our Guerrero segment of the 2013 dance schedule.  More on that in a bit. 

After  a light lunch consisting of hot dogs, nachos, cupcakes, chocolate, fruit and Gatorade - seriously, the workshop resumed with Tamaulipas.  This portion of the workshop lasted from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm.  Quite a contrast to the Guerrero.  I was particularly interested in this portion because Herencia was in the Tamaulipas segment of their 2013 dance repertoire.  Richard had already taught the group two Tamaulipas dances.  Now I would have an additional dance to add to my list!  I was a bit uneasy from all the spinning from the Guerreros that I found myself somewhat off center.  Through the whole Tamaulipas instruction, the teacher kept saying "dance from your core", "center yourself" and "stay grounded". 

I loved the Tamailipas because it was a slower dance that was different from many that I have seen and the ones Richard had taught me.  This one has a lot of fluid ballet movement and is very dramatically theatrical.  The song was about the fascination or myth of sirens or mermaids which is fitting for Tamaulipas as it lies next to the ocean.  From my understanding, the mermaids were tales that the men of the sea told that were actually based on the discovery of manatees in the ocean, which are common in The Gulf of Mexico.  As embellishment, fantasy and exaggeration carried out, folk tales and myths developed, resulting in the creature we call the mermaid.  What a contrast between the two - mermaids and manatees.

Here is what The Mexican Folkloric Dance Company Of Chicago via Jose Luis Ovalle states about The State of Tamaulipas:

"The Northeastern state of Tamaulipas is one of the most prosperous states in Mexico. Its original name "Tamaholipa" has become a controversy among the experts. Some say it means "Place of prayer", while others believe it means "Place of high mountains". Facing the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the East, and bordering Texas to the North, Veracruz and San Luis Potosí to the South, and Nuevo León to the West, Tamaulipas is the cross road between Northeastern and Central Mexico.  In colonial times, the state was part of the Spanish province of Nueva Santander, which included Southeastern Texas. Tamaulipas boasts a powerful economy based on oil, cattle, agriculture an tourism.

The Border Region:  Aside from their obvious impact between Mexico and Texas, Matamoros, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo are very popular frontier towns because all three are close to Monterrey (The industrial capital of Mexico) and offer a straight journey to Mexico City and Veracruz as well as immediate entry into the U.S. El Norte, as this region is referred to is also the home of polkas and other European rhythms brought into Mexico in the mid 1800's. (See Tracalada Norteña)

The Central Region:  This area is shaped by the spectacular Sierra Madre Oriental, abundant in natural resources and also the home of Ciudad Victoria, the state capital. The abundant resources are a reason for celebration, and it is reflected in the typical dance of the region, called "Picota". Jumps, leaps, turns, hops and constant choreographic motion characterize this rhythm, which is believed to be a distant relative of Scottish folk dancing (brought into Mexico at the same time as the Polka). The music is provided by a drum and a clarinet.."Pito y Tambora".

La Huasteca Tamaulipeca:  Central to Southern Tamaulipas is known La Huasteca (Nahuatl: Land of gourds). It is a region of sub-tropical weather that encompasses parts of seven states and is located near the Gulf of Mexico. Tampico, Cd. Mante, and Tula are the most popular cities of la Huasteca Tamaulipeca. The liveliest Huapangos (Nahuatl: Dancing on a platform) come from this region.  The Huapango is a culture onto itself. It evolved from Spanish music interpreted and altered by the natives. Its closest relatives: Seguidillas and Fandangos are the two saddest forms of flamenco. However, la Huasteca is also a land of abundance (Including vast oil deposits), so the languorous "Cante Moro" or "Sorrowful singing" that accompanies Spanish music is transformed into a falsetto of joyous celebration.  The dancers wear their best chamois leather galas of local manufacture and the fiddler improvises musical passages and verses in a fast, light-paced melody. The Huapango is one perfect example of Mexican "Mestizo" (Mixed origin) culture."

This workshop exposed many, many areas that I need to improve upon.  I was amazed at how even basic steps presented challenges to me.  I couldn't believe it.  But overall, I think I did alright.  There was a wide range of experience between the dancers that took the class which I am certain presented a challenge to the teachers.  But we all got through it and I left with a sense of accomplishment and development.  One of the parents commented to me that I was "extremely focused".  I wanted to make sure I kept up.  Mentally and physically, it was exhausting.  You really had to pay attention in order to keep up because they move right along - with or without you!  After the workshop ended, it was off to folklorico practice with Herencia for another two hours.  By the end of the day, I had been on my feet for 7 hours dancing.  My legs were shot!  Aches and pains, aches and pains!  About an hour into Herencia's practice my legs cramped up.  They had enough and weren't having any more of it.  It took me a few days to recover!


On March 16, 2013 Herencia had Joel Sandoval come out to continue his Guerrero teaching.  Three hours of intense practice ensued.  We worked on two Guerrero dances that were different than the one we learned in the previous workshop.  So, I have been exposed to four Guerrero dances total.  Guerrero is a challenging region.  Not only do you need to focus on your footwork and the movement, but you have the added feature of the bandanna being held, twirled and flipped.  A coordination nightmare for someone lacking coordination.  That would be me! 

Of the four regions I have shared about this week, I have to say Tamaulipas is my favorite.  Perhaps that's biased because I have performed it and I like the fringed costume.  I have also performed Jalisco.  As I have stated several times before, Jalisco is challenging for me as it requires a lot of energy and a bit more assertiveness to dance it.  I think I would probably like Jalisco more if my sombrero fit my big head better too.  That would be less of a distraction and I would be able to focus on the dancing more, resulting in better performances.  I have a strong Colima curiosity and I want to conquer the Guerrero too.  Who knows!  Perhaps my opinion will change in the future and I will have a new favorite.   

It was nice to get a fresh perspective.  I think that it can make you more flexible when you learn to study under different people; however, I would recommend that you have some experience under your belt before you go exploring.  Otherwise you may get frustrated.  Plus, exploration is no substitution for your dedication to your own "home" group.

There you have it - The Big Wedo's experience with folklorico workshops.  One event I would like to experience is the Danzantes Unidos Festival.  Danzantes Unidos happens every year and many folklorico dancers from around the world travel to California to experience three days of workshops, performances, lectures, and classes.  This is something that I look forward to.  Of course, you'll know when I go because I'll be blogging about it!

In closing, I would like to mention that this week I started a folklorico boot camp.  What's that exactly?  I'm learning several new dances for a big show coming up in a couple weeks in Denver, Colorado.  Therefore, I'm calling it "Boot Camp"!  Yes that's right, Denver!  The kickoff of our National Tour?  I sure hope so!  If you're in the Denver area, make sure you come see us at Pridefest on June 15th & 16th.  Herencia is dancing on the "Orgullo Latino he Llegado" stage throughout both days.  Come say "hello".  Until next week, wedo out!

Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":

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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! Herencia Mexicana practices in Duarte, California.  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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