Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Deadly Transformation - Week 45

Hi Everyone! A special welcome to the Faroe Islands this week!  Wow, I've never even heard of that place, but they checked out the blog.  So, I had to check them out online.  This whole experience has taken me on a global trip, at least through the Internet anyway.  I also want to welcome Trinidad & Tobago to the blog.  I'm almost to 7000 pageviews now, let's keep the counter rollin'!

Here we are once again as I share the true tale of the One Big Wedo.  My, oh my, where do I begin this week?  Who celebrated the Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos?  Me, me, me!  This was a weekend I've been planning for and anticipating for a long time.  I wrote a post about it back on week 30 called "The Day of the Dead".  I recommend you check it out!  This week, I had the pleasure of performing at two "off-the-hook" venues on Saturday November 2nd!  A real treat.  How would I sum it up in just one sentence?  To quote a famous passage, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!" (From A Tale of Two Cities).  Was that dramatic enough for you?  Allow me to explain.

As some of you may know, I am the "Administrator" for Herencia Mexicana.  Richard is the "Director", "Instructor" and "Costume Coordinator" and I do most of the other stuff.  Whoop, whoop! It's a position that I fell into over the course of time.  I have a full plate between being one of the groups dancers, going to practices, learning new dances, answering emails, Facebook posts, scheduling shows, filing paperwork, other clerical duties, being the go between dancers and the director (Lord, Help Me!), taking care of dancers profiles, records, texts, dues and so on. Lastly, I write this blog, which is an independent work that I pursued on my own!  Richard never asked me to do it.  I did it for me because I wanted to.  I never imagined all of this when I got involved!  I'm not complaining.  I'm just shocked at how dancing, specifically folklorico, moved into my life.  Never expected that to ever happen!  Surprise Wedo, you're a dancer now - Now Prance!  It's practically a full time job!

Recently, Herencia Mexicana had several retired alumni come back and start dancing again.  In two short weeks, Richard put together the Day of the Dead show we performed November 2nd.  The group only had two practices.  Some of these people hadn't danced in years!  Pressure was on!  It had all the potential for disaster.  So how'd it go?  Overall, the dancers really pulled themselves together and the shows were great!  Yet, there were some minor road bumps along the way.  So let's get into all those details!  I've kept it real with you through the whole blog, so why stop now.

Richard and I have been really striving to get Herencia back to the amazing performing group she once was.  It has been a roller coaster of emotion and hard work. We're tired! But it appears that things are moving in the right direction finally!  A new season of awesomeness is upon us!  Watch out 2014!  But, as with all things, there's always that component of stressful situations that arise.  It's a miracle that shows come together with any success at all.  It's always hectic to get dancers to the right place, on time and ready to go. It never fails that someone or multiple people run late, someone pulls out of the show at the last minute or some other annoying circumstance happens.  You can never prepare enough.  I've seen it all and it can be very disappointing at times.  To a small degree, it has tarnished my overall folklorico experience.

The first venue of the day was Olvera Street!  What a honor to be able to perform there on such a significant holiday.  Thank you Olvera Street for the invitation!  As one director put it, "When Olvera Street comes a knocking, you always go!"  So, we went!  Performances took place in the big gazebo, across the street from Union Station. This was my first time dancing at Olvera Street.  It was also my first time to have my face painted like a skull.  Many friends and family from around Southern California showed up to show their support and watch our 3pm performance.


Olvera Street had all kinds of activities, entertainment, displays, artwork and special events happening for the holiday.  It was a huge production and celebration.  They even included Herencia Mexicana in the official event flyer, which included this history on Dia de Los Muertos:

""Dia De Los Muertos" or Day of the dead is a Mexican tradition that dates back more than 3000 years to the indigenous ceremonies of the Pre-Columbian civilizations of the Aztecs, Mayans, Toltecas and others native to Mexico.  When Christianity was introduced to the new world in the 16th century its religious symbols were incorporated into the ancient ceremony.  The celebration begins Nov. 1st, All Saints Day, when it is believed the spirits of the children, "Los Angelitos," return to visit.  On Nov. 2nd, All Souls Day, adult spirits return to their families.  A special altar is made and adorned with pictures, flowers, personal belongings and the favorite foods of the deceased.  Dia De Los Muertos is an opportunity for the family to reunite with their deceased loved ones who intercede on their behalf and bring good fortune to the living.  It is a time to come to terms with our mortality and become aware of the cycle of life and death.  Olvera Street merchants were the first to promote and honor this traditional celebration in Los Angeles and the US."

Richard and I got up early on November 2nd to head downtown because we had to pick up a few last minute items before the show. Specifically, we needed one more blinged out hair comb and some glamorous necklaces to complete the look of the day.  Plus, we needed to get there early to find parking in all the chaos and unload all the costumes.  Now the night before we had one last practice with two of the dancers.  We also had one dancer back out of the shows, so the pressure was on to find a replacement. Cindy Perez saved the day and the shows by stepping up and dancing!  Thank you Cindy!

Upon arrival to Olvera Street we got checked in and they directed us to the dressing rooms.  We unloaded the car and wheeled the costumes through the streets of Los Angeles over to the dressing rooms, where we got confronted by the director of another group.  Once again, just like at the fair, a director did not want to share the public dressing rooms with us until after their performance. Avoiding an ugly situation, we parked our stuff on the side of the street until 1:30.  Check in time for our dancers was 1:00.  Many dancers ran late and I was hit with numerous texts and calls from them with their explanations and status updates.  Thankfully everyone showed up.  But they stressed out this old Wedo in the process.  OMG!  I have too many gray hairs as it is people!  Punctuality please!

Now, as we were parked out there on the curb waiting for access into the dressing rooms, Richard suddenly realized that one of the Veracruz dresses was missing its lace shawl.  His exact words to me were, "You're going to kill me, I'm missing a shawl."  Somewhere along the line we had misplaced it and so he ran off down Olvera Street to purchase a shawl.  Thank goodness they have costuming there.  Richard returned from his shopping spree with a new shawl, a fan and tangerine rebozo.  All of which ended up being used for the shows!  Nice save!

After that came one of my personal favorite moments of the day.  Richard, my mentor, teacher and friend, painted my face.  This was important to me.  Not just that I look good for the show, but that he was the one to do it.  He painted the skull on the right side of the face only, as that is what the group had decided to do.  Of course, I didn't shave my goatee and so it was tricky trying to get that covered up.  But we had really good make up/paint and Richard's sister, Tina, assisted him in covering my goat and creating the teeth. I was very pleased with my look.  Thank you Richard and Tina!  Even after all the years of their existence, this was Herencia's first time participating in Day of the Dead festivals and this was the first time the group has ever painted their faces.  It was fun for all.

Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of the face painting process like I had wanted to.  However, I did find this video on YouTube of the skull face transformation.  Check it out:

Once in the dressing room, Richard went into director mode and helped get everyone dressed and coordinated.  I continued to respond to dancers texts and get them in the right place.  For these shows I got us some skull rings for the scarves we wear around our neck.  There's that attention to detail. Now in the process of getting the Veracruz women ready, Richard realized that a black rebozo was missing.  Not his fault!  There was a miscommunication between a dancer and him.  What to do? The tangerine one he bought was to replace an orange one that was too weathered for stage.  There was no time to go buy another.  Richard always has a solution to everything.  That's why he's the director! The Wedo, on the other hand, well that's a whole different story.  Anyway, taking some extra black scarfs we had, he created a rebozo!  Bam!  Solution!  No one even noticed! Whew! Again, nice save!

Now in the midst of all the dressing room commotion, I was having a bit of a down day on the personal side of things.  Combined with all the stress of the show and performing, anxiety set in.  Not just nerves, but a heavy weight and complete numb feeling.  And for a moment, I thought I was going to have to pull out of the show myself.  Talk about having a bad day.  This is the first time, and hopefully last, this has ever happened.  I even called Richard's name to get his attention and tell him I didn't think I could do the show, but he didn't hear me in all the hustle and bustle of the changing room.  I took a deep breath and said a little prayer.  The prayer worked because I somehow got my focus back and off all the stress and personal crud I was dealing with.  So, it was by the grace of God that I pulled myself together!  Thank you Lord! Prayer really does change things!  It works!

We were ready for the show and we made out way out to the gazebo.  There many folks took pictures.  Ballet Folklorico Sol de Mexico joined us again for the show to help and present Chiapas. Thank you Sol!  Elizabeth Mendieta also came out to help us with costume changes and with the passing out of business cards.  Thank you Liz!  Before we took the stage, the entire group gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed.  Many in the audience were moved by it.  Then it was showtime! The show was a big hit.  It was like performing for the paparazzi!  So many people took video and pictures.  We attracted a large crowd.  A special thanks to Christoper Bernal for video taping.  Here are some pictures from the show - Thank you Cristina Solorzano for photographing the show:


Richard had a unique idea for the Guadalajara show closer.  He asked dancers to a bring framed picture of a loved one that had passed. I took one of my grandma and grandpa from my mom's side. During the finale we held the photos and a candle and danced the closing song.  It was a powerful ending.  Some dancers carried skulls or other elements found on memorial altars.  It was awesome and the nice part about it, no one else did it or thought of it.  Bravo Richard!  

As I mentioned earlier, many of the Solorzano family came out for the show, including the original directors, Richard and Cristina.  Many came just for the ending of the show to see their loved ones represented and memorialized on stage.  Some photos were of loved ones that passed away just this year.  It was a nice tribute to their legacy.  Also included among the photos was a picture of Jose, the original Herencia teacher.  You can read more about him in my blog from week 42 called "Who is Herencia Mexicana? a History!"  

Richard was also happy that some of the new generation of family was there to see the show. They are the future of the group!  Richard's mother enjoyed the Banda Sinaloa dance Vuela Paloma so much, she even thought she might learn the dance.  That made Richard happy.

As far as any eventful happenings during the show, Jennifer danced the Jarabe with me and she got to be the first woman to where the special necklace we bought for the china dress ensemble. Check out last weeks blog for more on that.  Jessica got to wear a special black Sinaloa dress we had made just for The Day of The Dead.  Every year in November, one lucky dancer will get to wear the dress - a new tradition! During the Chiapas, two bracelets broke which sent beads everywhere!  That's festive!! The floor of the gazebo was very slippery as it is, glad I avoided all the beads!  I would have broke my hip!  Also, there was an echo of the footwork you could hear under the canopy.  That was bizarre! In a costume change rush, a soloist wore black shoes instead of white.  It happens!  And Richard and I swapped sombreros by mistake and I had to dance with his which is too small for my head.  Aye! And lastly, the bows at the end of the show need work, people looked lost and confused.  Guess what we will be practicing now till the next show?  Bows!

It was nice that there was a man that announced for the group.  He was also the sound tech.  He did a great job introducing the group in Spanish.  He took several photos during the show too.  At the end, he made the comment in Spanish, that we not only danced but are performers and entertainers! Thanks for the compliment.  And thanks to Richard for translating for me!

After the show it was a mad rush to get all packed up.  But before we got out of there, one lady caught Richard for one last photo and told him how "handsome" he is!  Looks like someone has a new admirer.  Oooooh!  We all journeyed independently out to Riverside for our 8pm performance at the festivities there.  This was Riverside's Ten Year Anniversary for the event!  Richard and I took a pit stop to get the black rebozo and a few items we needed for Riverside.  We got to Riverside and the festival was in full swing.  Talk about a party.  Wow it was incredible.  Parking was almost impossible to find, but we found some, unloaded and then got to the dancing area.  There were no real changing rooms.  The city gave us an area on the street for our stuff, right out there in the open. Oh my!  A side show too!

Once again the dancers trickled in and the Wedo got a few more gray hairs!  They didn't believe Richard when he advised them to head straight to Riverside from Olvera Street.  He warned them of all the chaos an limited parking.  But everyone came through!  Late, but they came through.  More friends and family showed up to support the group.  We even saw some ex-HERENCIA dancers. Susie Torres joined us for the festivities and helped out by passing out business cards!  Thank you Susie!  Folklorico Page was in town for the event too.  Check out Folklorico Page on Facebook to view photos and videos of all the groups who performed in Riverside!  The event even included Herencia Mexicana in their official flyer!  Wow thank you.  Here is what this flyer stated about Dia de Los Muertos:

"Dia de Los Muertos dates back to the Aztec Indian belief that death was not a sad event, but an occasion to celebrate the entering of the new world, a new life. The Day of the Dead is celebrated by Mexican families who wait for the spirits of their loved ones to return and visit.  A special altar is made and adorned with candles, food, and marigolds, which are the traditional Mexican flower for the dead. November 1st, All Saints Day, is when the spirits of the children are expected to return.  At night, the families shoot off firecrackers to light the way for their children.  November 2nd, All Souls Day, is when the adult spirits return.  On that day you can find families having a picnic with their families at the cemetery with their loved ones.  Food and drink are offered to the spirits so that they may be strong enough to return to the other world.  When the day is done, everyone has enjoyed the feast and the visit with their loved ones.

Dia de Los Muertos began as a ritual practiced by indigenous people where they believe the souls of the deceased return to Earth for the day.  The souls are guided and welcomed back by altars decorated with an abundance of food, music, and things they enjoyed during their life.  Although merged with Catholic theology, the celebrations still contains Aztec principles including use of skulls.  Today these skulls are made of sugar and sometimes grains, and decorated with color and creativity.  The day coincides with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and is celebrated November 2nd.

Altar Meanings:

Marigold:  For everlasting life.

Candles:  A symbol of the element of fire.  It is the light that guides the souls back to Earth.

Water:  Symbolizes life, baptism, and serves to quench the thirst of the souls.

Incense:  Unites the sky with earth, and carries prayers.

Salt:  As once used to keep bodies from rotting after death, the salt reunites the souls with their flavorful life and represents a defense against the evil.

Food and drinks:  Represents the pleasures the deceased indulged in during their life, it is a way to welcome them back and allow them to regain strength after their long travel back to Earth.

Calvaeras:  Symbolizes the element of earth.

Papel Picado:  Symbolizes the element of wind."

Here are the links to the YouTube videos of our performance in Riverside posted by Folkloricochannel:
Here are some photos posted by audience onlookers on Facebook - Many by Eduardo Ruiz:

Once again, it was an awesome show!  So what stood out to me?  The crowd!  Wow, it was packed and there was so much happening on that stretch of street. Truly an amazing experience.  I saw some large and amazing tribal head dresses off in the distance parading up and down the street.  There were Catrinas everywhere, including a giant one.  I also had a man in the sound booth shake my hand and tell me something to the extent of, "I know who you are.  I've read your blog and you dance well." Thanks for the compliment.  Guess people really are reading these posts! I'm shocked.

Another interesting thing happened during one of my quick costume changes, a lady passing by got all offended and told me to "Cover Up!"  My apologies, but why you looking?  There was also a man snapping some pictures of the changing process!  What was that about?  Probably made the front page! Next year the city really needs to provide a tent or something for changing.  Sol was smart and brought their own.   

During our performance a couple ambulances showed up and several official people to respond to a lady passed out on the street.  She probably got a glimpse of my alleged streaking and fainted!  I have that affect on people!  We also had a slight pause in the show to announce a lost child was found and they were looking for the parents.  I kind of wanted to take her out to dance with me, but it didn't happen.  After we wrapped that show up, Richard and I got to perform with BF Sol de Mexico! That's three shows in one day!  Busy fun.

Afterwards, I got to talk with a few folks!  That was nice.  Even a coworker of mine was there!  He didn't know I danced.  I also had another special highlight of my day.  The second highlight was meeting Crystal and Alicia.  They have been wanting to meet the Wedo for a while.  Here is a photo of us after a full day of performing.  It was so awesome to meet them.  And this is one of the best shots of the awesome paint job Richard did on my face.  You can see where all my hats rubbed off the paint on my forehead.

We packed up the car and headed for some much needed rest and relaxation!  It was a tiring, but fun, day.  Thank you everyone for coming through and making it happen!  

In other news, I wanted to share these pictures from Disneyland I took on my last visit.  Disney even celebrated The Day of The Dead!  Check it out:

I also wanted to say that I noticed a strong representation of the holiday this year.  Perhaps that's because I'm more aware of it now.  More so than in the past.  There were all kinds of unique expressions - everything from balloons to fingernails!

In closing, I encourage everyone that's on Facebook to explore the Day of The Dead pages on there. One of particular interest to me is Mexican Sugar Skull.com. They take you through the whole process to make your own!  You can also check out these YouTube videos:


That's all folks!  How did I do?  Until next week ya'll.....you know the rest.  See ya.

Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":
Google E-mail: onebigwedo@gmail.com
Facebook: One Big Wedo (Guero)
Twitter: Michael Smith @onebigwedo
Blogger: www.onebigwedo.blogspot.com

Contact Information for Ballet Folklorico de Herencia Mexicana:

Richard Solorzano, Director: (909) 201-1957
Facebook: Herencia Mexicana
Facebook: Herencia Mexicana IE (Inland Empire)  
E-Mail: Bf_herencia_mexicana@yahoo.com

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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