Wednesday, July 31, 2013

51 Reasons U Know UR A Folklorico Dancer - Bonus Post 1

HELLO EVERYONE!  I have been busy writing this week's blog and discovered this on Facebook!  Wanted to share it!  Enjoy!

51 REASONS U KNOW UR A FOLKLORICO DANCER


1. You dance folklorico down the hall way instead of walking.
2. You do jarabes y caretillas while waiting in line.
3. You perform calmly before crowds, yet suffer anxiety during any type of evaluation or interview.
4. You are well coordinated in folklorico, but you trip over your own feet when walking.
5. A new leotard or a new pair of folklorico shoes make your day.
6. You walk with your feet pointing because of the ballet that's incorporated with our folklorico dancing.
7. You use any floor to practice your steps.
8. You hear Mexican sones at home/events/restaurants, and you need to dance.
9. The top shelf in your closet is filled with your old costumes and dance shoes.
10. You believe that Amalia Hernandez was the best choreographer/maestra EVER.
11. The kitchen and living room have scratches from your folklorico shoes.
12. You can talk about the art of folklorico dancing all day to people who dont care.
13. When you cant sit still when you hear folklorico songs.
14. All your friends make fun of you cuz when stand you stand in a diagonal, diamond, rectangle or a line, because they don't get the whole concept of choreography and positions.
15. That with every song that comes on at a folklorico or mariachi event you are one of the first ones to start dancing it, even its just you or a group of friends.
16. You noticed every mistake made at any folklorico performance, dance movie or TV show.
17. You get all excited when you see any coverage on the news or TV commercial where you hear mariachi music or see folklorico dancers.
18. You are always on the look out for that perfect piece of wood to practice at home on. (Dont tell me you don't, cuz you know you do).
19. When you go clubbin and you STOMP while dancing salsa, merengue and even bachata, and every one (except your friends that know you dance folklorico) is like WHAT THE HECK.
20. You get all excited when reading this and cant believe that they FINALLY made one for us.
21. When you can dance for a week straight at ANGF and get teary eyed at its "clausura".
22. When you jam out to Folklorico music in your car!
23. Every vacation is planned around some kind of event, show, taller, conference, etc.
24. You have more old botines than regular shoes.
25. You know that Miguelito's is not the local restaurant.
26. You know when the pay-per-song mariachi is chopping out verses to make the song shorter.
27. When you have taught more than 30 years and can't quit.
28. You refer to Rafael Zamarippa as the "Godfather".
29. When you come across a Mariachi in a Restaurant you ALWAYS request a "Son". (As opposed to everyone else who ask's for rancheras or cumbias or any other nonsense! puros sones!)
30. (Guys) you have 3 or more white collared shirts and they ALL have rust stains from the hangers!...(for the hardcore performing bunch)
31. When you think it looks and feels normal to wear BOOTS with SHORTS! LoL
32. When you take better care of your folklorico cds than your other cds. The floklorico ones are in the original cases and stored away. The others are stacked all over the place out of the cases.
33. You take better care of your dance shoes/botines than your regular shoes. You make sure they are polished, the rubber on the bottom is nice and fresh, you tape your nails when you have to dance outside on concrete. But the others can fall apart and you don't care. (well maybe you do)
34. When you buy regular shoes you look for nice hard leather soles on them so you can dance at parties without your botines.
35. When you keep thinking of things to add to this growing list. (LOL that's all of us)
36. When you think or hear of the word "borracho" you don't necessarily think of a drunk guy.
37. you can name any son a mariachi plays and then dance it in the middle of a restaurant while your friends/family look on in embarrassment.
38. You (girls) have more than 2 pairs of filigrana earrings that you don't just wear to performances!
39. You (girls) try to fit your rebozos into your everyday wardrobe!
40. You get drunk listening to mariachis play "La Negra" and then proceed to dance it with full-blown choreography!! If you went to ANGF this year, you definitely did this!!
41. When you ask the mariachi at the restaurant to play Casacabel or El Son Veracruzano and they give you that WIDE EYED look cuz they know you just requested it to test them. LOL!
42. When you plan a dance members birthday after a rehearsal or performance cuz its a good way to have everyone there and they cant get out of it.
43. when you go to a record store and you always go through the SLIM pickins a the MEXICO section in the hopes to find a good Folklorico CD but then you are never really up to date and the stuff on the radio.
44. you see Flamenco and can't possibly understand why somebody would want to dance something where you can't do gritos and smile.
45. You have memorized The Mariachi Connection's(or any other folkloric store's) phone number.
46. You actually have it on speed dial.
47. (Ladies)You despair when your skirt gets a stain.
48. Actually, it never does.
49. You look on in horror when a cheer leading group or other modern dance group *claims* to have mixed folklorico with their stuff, and you see *just how* they chopped it up...beyond recognition.
50. You dance folklorico in the grocery store.
51. You'd wear folklorico shoes to whatever formal function you are going to.

See you this weekend!


****ATTENTION ALL BIG WEDO FANS & FOLLOWERS:  MARK YOUR CALENDARS - SEPTEMBER 29, 2013 - HERENCIA MEXICANA WILL BE PERFORMING AT THE LA COUNTY FAIR.  THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR THOSE OF YOU IN THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AREA TO COME OUT AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!  MEET THE WEDO!  LET'S PACK THE PLAZA AND SET RECORD ATTENDANCE FOR THE SHOW!  HOPE TO SEE EVERYONE THERE.  MORE DETAILS TO COME AS THE EVENT GETS CLOSER!****


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
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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Day Of The Dead - Week 30

The Day Of The Dead:

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos in Spanish, is a holiday related to All Saints Day and All Soul's Day that is celebrated throughout Mexico and in many other countries around the world.  Several different cultures and communities of people from around the world have their version of the holiday, slightly varying from one another.  The holiday and its merchandise are becoming increasingly popular in the United States as Mexican communities influence society by promoting it.  More and more artists and retailers sell and embrace the marketing associated with the holiday.  Pop culture has also embraced the holiday, often placing a trendy spin on the ancient rituals and concepts.  Overall, general awareness and curiosity has increased.  In America, we have held a fascination for years with skull imagery and the idea of the afterlife, heaven and hell.  There is also a growing trend of "hunting" for paranormal activity, ghosts and spirits.  We celebrate the holiday of Halloween that embraces some of this fascination.  It's no surprise that as more Americans learn about The Day of the Dead, more and more are taking part in this celebration of life and death, folklore and culture.


The greatest influence of Day of the Dead in America comes from our neighbors to the South, Mexico.  And whenever there is a Mexican holiday or celebration, you often find folklorico dancing.  Hence the reason I am writing about this holiday.  Below are some pictures from the first Day of the Dead folklorico performance I ever saw.  The pictures are of Images of Mexico getting ready in 2011 for their show.  Be sure to read my blog called "Images Of Mexico" to learn more of this fabulous group.  The show was spectacular and there were lots of vendors selling their goods.  I bought some colorful glitter skull heads, with the intent of using them as ornaments for a Day of the Dead Christmas tree, and a charcoal skeleton drawing. 






The holiday takes place over two days in November on the 1 and 2.  It coincides and has connections to the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day (a.k.a. All Hallows, Solemnity of All Saints, or The Feast of All Saints) and All Souls Day (a.k.a. Commemoration of All Faithful Departed).  The Day of the Dead draws ideas and practices from these two Catholic holidays and combines them with cultural rituals and folklore.  The holiday focuses on gatherings of families and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died.  At its core, it is a day dedicated to remembering the dead - essentially it is a type of Memorial Day.


Traditions connected to the holiday include building private altars or shrines honoring those who have passed.  Altars include a variety of elements including sugar skulls, marigold flowers, photographs and portraits of the deceased, candles, toys, bottles, the favorite food and beverages of the deceased, as well as possessions of the deceased.  Most often these altars are built inside the home, however, I have seen them in community settings as well.  At the grave sites of the departed, similar items are offered as gifts.  Grave side visitation is typically part of the holiday. 



Many of the items used in the memorial altars have significant reasons why they are used and beliefs that are associated with them.  At a Day of the Dead folklorico performance last year at the Redlands Community Center, a pamphlet explaining many of these items and the folklore behind them was given to the people who came.  I would like to share with you the information the flyer provided.  The brochure is called "DIA DE LOS MUERTOS - DAY OF THE DEAD:  A brief guide to the Mexican ritual of life and death."  Note:  there is no author, resource or reference printed on the document.  Nonetheless, I like how it simply explains everything.  Here's what it has to say:

"El Dia De Los Muertos


El Dia De Los Muertos, or Day Of The Dead, is a celebration that captures the idea of unity between life and death.  It emphasizes death as part of the cycle of life.  It came into being when the Catholic feast of All Souls Day, a day to remember the dead with prayer, merged with Indian rituals of death after the Spanish conquered Mexico in 1521.

El Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated on November 1st, when, it is believed, the spirits of dead relatives return to their homes.  For this special occasion, altars are cleaned and decorated on October 31st to welcome the honored guests.  On these altars one traditionally places zempasuchil (yellow marigolds), candles, toys, religious pictures, cut tissue paper decorations, and personal mementos as offerings to the returning soul.  Other offerings include incense, cigarettes, liquor, and food such as tamales, candles, sugar skulls, and pan de muertos (bread of the dead), things the returning soul enjoyed during life.

At around 4:00 A.M. on November 1st, the spirits of the children are expected.  They are expected for only a few hours and around 8:00 A.M., their departure is marked by the blowing out of tiny candles and their removal from the altar.  At about 3:00 P.M. the spirits of the adults arrive and large candles are lit.  It is said that the spirits will go away weeping if nothing is offered to them.

Prayers are said at the altar around 8:00 P.M. and everyone attends mass at church on the morning of November 2nd.  In the evening, they will fill the cemeteries where graves of departed relatives are cleaned and decorated with zempasuchil.  Once there, incense is burned and food is offered until dawn.  On November 4th, the altars and decorations are removed." 


In the Mexican culture, the family unit is an important core value.  It is upheld, even if fellow family members have to use tactics like guilt trips and/or intimidation to keep you close to the family nest.  I find it interesting that even in these family oriented holidays with their rituals, there is an element of guilt as they suggest that your deceased loved ones will be saddened if you do not participate.  This kind of thinking holds families hostage to the tradition and ritual.  Anyway, just an observation.  Here is some additional information that the flyer provides explaining the various components of specific items.  Please note:  images were added by me. 

"La Ofrenda


The ofrenda, Spanish for "offering", is a home altar decorated for the Day of the Dead celebration to honor and please the returning souls.  The altar is decorated with pictures, candles, and food such as tamales and candies as an offering to the returning soul.  These are all things which the souls enjoyed in their earthly existence.

Papel Picado (Tissue-paper Cut Outs)


Tissue-paper banners with cutout designs of animated skeleton figures adorn altars and homes during El Dia De Los Muertos.  The art of making these banners was similar to leather tooling.  Today, half the fun is in cutting out the tissue paper with scissors and creating one's own design.

Candles


Candles, besides their religious symbolism, are placed on the ofrenda to light and guide the way of the souls to the altar.

Zempasuchil


The zempasuchil was the symbolic flower of death to the Aztecs.  Perhaps this association was made because once the marigold is cut, it dies very quickly.  For this reason, flowers on the ofrenda refer to the earth and the regenerative forces of nature. 

Also, in some religions, marigold petals are strewn to create a symbolic pathway leading souls to the ofrenda.

Incense


Incense is burned on grave sites and on the ofrenda.  Its perfumed smoke surrounds the altar and grave, providing and atmosphere of mystery.  The transformation of earth matter (tree resin) into something ethereal (smoke) is a symbolic transformation of the physical to the supernatural which is associated with the death of the returning soul.

A Glass Of Water


To quench the thirst of the returning souls after their long journey, a glass of water is placed on the ofrenda.  This emphasizes the fact that water is the main support of life

Sugar Skulls


The calaveras (skulls) are made from sugar paste which has been pressed into ceramic molds.  These skulls are decorated with flowers and scrolls of colored icing and metallic colored foils.  The skulls, bearing the name of the returning soul, are used in the ofrenda but can also be given to living children as treats and exchanged by sweethearts.  The consumption of the skulls by the living is done to associate pleasant sensations with their symbolic deaths and also to understand that in the end, death will feed on the living.

Pan De Muertos


Pan de Muertos is a sweet bread flavored with anise, orange peel and orange glaze specially made to be placed on ofrendas and graves.  The breads are baked for both the living and the dead and come in many different animal and angel shapes.  More traditional loaves are round with a central raised knob of dough, representing the skull, and crossed bone-shaped decorations radiating from the central knob.

Day Of The Dead Toys


There are a variety of toys such as painted clay skeleton figures, which portray the dead resuming their normal activities such as playing cards, that one can purchase and put on the ofrenda.  Pull toys and crank boxes with similar death imagery are given to children to introduce them to the idea of death in an atmosphere of joyful celebration."



Where did this holiday come from?  Wikipedia provides this insight as to the origins of the holiday,

"Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl.  The holiday has spread throughout the world:  In Brazil, Dia de Finadosis is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches.  In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones.  Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in Asian and African cultures."

As far as observance in Mexico and origins, Wikipedia offer this explanation:

"The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the precolumbian past.  Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500 - 3,000 years.  In the pre-Hispanic era, skulls were commonly kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. 


The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month.  The festivities were dedicated to the goddess known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina [see explanation below].

In most regions of Mexico, November 1 is to honor children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2.  This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as Dia de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") but also as Dia de los Angelitos ("Day of the little Angels") and November 2 as Dia de los Muertos or Dia de los Difuntos ("Day of the Dead")."

Here is the explanation and description Wikipedia gives of La Calavera Catrina:


"La Calavera Catrina ('Dapper Skeleton', 'Elegant Skull') is a 1910-1913 zinc etching by famous Mexican print maker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer Jose Guadalupe Posada.  The image depicts a female skeleton dressed only in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time.  Her chapeau originally is related to French and European styles of the early 20th century.  She is meant to portray a satirization of those Mexican natives who Posada felt were over embracing European traditions of the aristocracy in the pre-revoluntionary era.  She in particular, has become an icon of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead."


J.G. Posada himself stated this about La Catrina:

"La Catrina has become the referential image of death in Mexico, it is common to see her embodied as part of celebrations of Day of the Dead throughout the country; she has become a motive for the creation of handcrafts made from clay or other materials, her representations may vary, as well as the hat."



Of course, it is only fitting that her name is Catrina.  In Spanish the masculine is "El Catrin" which is a distinguished upper class dapper gentleman.  You may be familiar with him from the popular Mexican game Loteria.  The two make a most suitable couple - Catrina y Catrin!  A love story.  Here are some images of the two.






As The Day of the Dead holiday has grown in popularity, propaganda and merchandise related to the holiday has evolved and diversified.  You can visit almost any Mexican shop these days and find an array of skeleton portrayals.  Sugar skulls has evolved into a huge assortment of porcelain or ceramic figurines and La Catrina figurines have also grown in abundance and variety.  These days you can find pretty much any aspect of the Mexican culture in skeleton form. 



Another popular growing trend that I have seen is that of Day of the Dead tattoos.  They are everywhere these days.  Skulls have always been a favorite of the inked enthusiast.  So it's no surprise that the Day of the Dead theme has really taken off.  How fitting since tattoos are something you'll end up taking to your grave.  In addition, Day of the Dead merchandise like T-shirt and the sort have really taken off as well.  I recently saw a Marilyn Monroe skeleton T-shirts.  The trends just keep evolving.  If you can imagine it, it probably exists out there somewhere! 


As many of you know, I recently graduated Bible College receiving my Bachelors degree in Theology.  The Day of the Dead holiday and its traditions, rituals and beliefs was a topic of discussion in our classes.  Now I am not here to debate theology, beliefs or practices, but I do want to address the issue of witchcraft.  The general teaching on The Day of the Dead was that it was evil, basically.  That its traditions and rituals were grounded in witchcraft.  Skulls are categorized as wicked and associated with kingdom of darkness.  How spooky! 

Certainly with all things, if you go looking for it, you will probably find it.  My take on it was somewhat of an unpopular one, that being that God created skulls and that after we die, the body rots and the skull remains.  Nothing evil about that in particular!  There was even some ideology that suggest that the holiday was nothing but a mass cultural corporate seance where family members act as mediums and summon the dead.  When I was introduced to the holiday initially, it was presented to me as the Mexican Memorial Day.  For many, it is simply that, a day to remember and celebrate their beloved dead ones.


Certainly it could be argued that those who celebrate the Day of the Dead and partake in some of the customs and rituals, are no different than people who carve pumpkins on Halloween or dress up and go trick or treating.  We would most likely all agree that people who go trick or treating are not engaging in Satanic activity that is often associated with Halloween.  Another example would be Christmas.  Not everyone the takes part in the celebration of Christmas and all its traditions, chose to celebrate the birth of Christ.  At the end of the day, it all depends on your own individual response and what you make of it.  

I only bring this up because I know there are going to be those out there that claim I am promoting and encouraging people in the ways of witchcraft.  My intent here is to be only informational and not promotional.  Although some would say that I am promoting witchcraft simply by writing about the topic.  Therefore that being said, I want to make it clear that I do not encourage nor recommend people to engage in witchcraft, idol worship, tampering with spirits, or anything of that sort of nature.  

On a personal note however, it would be interesting to research and write about the correlation between a culture's attitude, tutoring, comfort level and familiarity with death and how that impacts, either positively or negatively, an individual's personal preparation of their living soul for the afterlife.  That's a potential topic for another blog, another time.  That all being said it's time to move on.


I hope everyone enjoyed this week's post on the Day of the Dead.  I can't wait until the day I get to have my face painted like a skull person!  A Day of the Dead, Part 2 is definitely in order.  Here are some other images I found online, Enjoy!














If this week's post sparked your interest in learning more about the Day of the Dead, folklorico or Mexico's culture and traditions - I encourage you to explore the web to find out more.  There are several websites and online resources out there that dive deeper into the subjects I present here.  That being said, make sure you still return and visit me here!

Other News:

What a busy week on the blog front this week!  Lots of activity.  I received an email this week from a fan that authors Mexican themed books which include photographs and illustrations of Mexico.  Thanks for following the blog.  You can check out www.rlbhartmann.com for more information on the books.  I sincerely appreciate everyone who is reading the blog and sharing it with others.  It really is encouraging for me to know that there are people who enjoy it.


Of course, not everyone is a fan of the blog.  This week I had my first, and hopefully last, encounter with an "Internet Troll".  What's that you ask?  I learned firsthand and was startled to discover there was an actual term for the behavior.  Here is Wikipedia's definition of Internet Troll:

"In Internet slang, a troll [Internet troll] is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion."

In my case, a disgruntled person on Facebook who was a member of one of the groups I belong to about blogging went on attack.  Accusing me of having a fake blog and promoting a blog to get people to visit my blog for pageviews to make money.  Although there are many blogs out there that use money making programs, like Adsense, to make money by people visiting their blog, let me assure you that I do not.  I do not subscribe to any on-line advertising links or offers to make money here.  Again, I make no money by you reading my blog or visiting.  This is not a money making venture for me.  I do it because I enjoy it and some people enjoy it with me.  Nonetheless, their whole rant got me kicked out of the group.  I could care less.  This was one experience that I did not anticipate.  You just never know what you'll get to experience in life!  Thanks Ben for the heads up on the proper terminology insight. 

Lastly, don't forget about the logo contest.  The winner gets a $100 out of my own pocket.  Good grief!  This blog is costing me money!  Doesn't matter, it's worth it to me.  Visit week 28 for all the Logo Contest details.  Get those submissions in by August 31, 2013.  I keep checking my email to see if any come in.  Hopefully soon.  Until next week my fellow wedians and wedo followers...I am outta here!     


****ATTENTION ALL BIG WEDO FANS & FOLLOWERS:  MARK YOUR CALENDARS - SEPTEMBER 29, 2013 - HERENCIA MEXICANA WILL BE PERFORMING AT THE LA COUNTY FAIR.  THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR THOSE OF YOU IN THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AREA TO COME OUT AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!  MEET THE WEDO!  LET'S PACK THE PLAZA AND SET RECORD ATTENDANCE FOR THE SHOW!  HOPE TO SEE EVERYONE THERE.  MORE DETAILS TO COME AS THE EVENT GETS CLOSER!****


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
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.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Full Exposure - A Look Behind The Curtain - Week 29

Welcome back! Saudi Arabia checked out One Big Wedo this week!  Thanks for joining in on the journey!  Hope everyone has been busy tapping into their inner artist and designing a logo for my contest!  You still have plenty of time, so get busy and start submitting your entries.  I can't wait to see them. If you're not aware of the contest, visit last weeks blog for all the contest details. 


I returned to work this week only to find that Blogger is still not allowing me to write or edit posts.  So I am once again stuck using my iPhone app to write the blog on my breaks and lunch.  If this continues to be an on going or permanent problem, I'll have to evaluate and develop a new schedule possibly.  In the mean time, I'm dealing with it and trudging forward.

Not that I'm into public chastening or anything, but here is something that I just couldn't let slide by!  I shared this photo from one of our Cinco de Mayo performances a few weeks ago and commented how I was the only one not looking the same direction as the other guys.  I'm such a show off at times.  "Look at me, look at me!"  We all look good and uniform except for the Wedo's head.  Aye!  Wait a minute, is that Jose laughing in the front of the line?  I can see those teeth buddy!  You are!  Ha, typical! 


Anyway, here is a photo taken six weeks later in Denver.  Same step except heading the other direction. Hold up!  I'm still checking out the audience and looking the wrong way!  Look at all those people!  I'm mesmerized like a fly in the headlights or a moth to a candle.  Take your pick.  It appears as though I am thinking, "Don't I look fabulous everybody?"  You said you'd work on this Wedo!  And I have been but old and bad habits die hard.  At least Jose seems to be behaving himself this time.  Go Jose!  I'm so proud of you mijo!


Now before several of you come rushing to little Jose's defense and call me out for calling him out, let me say he deserves it!  Allow me to explain.  Jose is a big jokester.  Believe it!  At one of the very first performances I danced at, he noticed that I was following him.  I was watching him from the corner of my eye and relying on him to make sure I was doing the right steps.  Of course after he realized this he had to mess with me.  So, he started doing body language that implied he was going to do one step and then he quickly changed it to do the right step.  What a punk!  Of course I did the wrong step and looked like the idiot wedo on stage.  I was so irritated at the time but after lots therapy I can laugh about it now.  Thanks Jose!

Secrets Behind The Curtain:

As you can imagine, folklorico dancing can consume much of your time.  Especially for those who perform on a regular basis.  Not only is there all the time spent on practices and rehearsals, there is the additional time spent in travel and the preparation on the day of the show.  It certainly is a lifestyle.  The more organized and prepared you are, the better.  Having a plan and routine can help save time and keep the flow.

This week I want to give readers a glimpse into the Big Wedo's routine on performance days.  What does that look like and entail exactly?  Well here's all my secrets behind the curtain so to speak.  So ready or not, here you have it!


After someone calls Richard to hire Herencia for a show, he sends out an event notification on Facebook to the dancers specifying the date and time of the performance.  As the event draws closer he will send out the show line up which includes the regions, songs and who will be dancing what.  Oftentimes there will be a show run through the week before the show, but that's not always the case.  Regardless, dancers are expected to practice on their own and be ready to perform.  Often times I have arranged practices with my partner during the week to run through dances over and over.  That's not always possible either, so I will watch videos of the dances and brush up on foot work, sequences and choreography in my kitchen on the linoleum floor.  

Now I was told by a fellow dancer that I tend to be a "drama queen" before a performance.  I get nervous and admit that the stress gets to me.  That's evident by all the gray in my goatee.  I start to question myself as to whether I should dance or not.  I never feel fully prepared.  Second guessing myself is common.  I tend to voice my concern and that apparently makes me a "drama queen".  But if I'm going to be labelled as a "queen", I suppose being "La Reyna de la Folklorica" is quite an honor.  That's a crown I will gladly wear.  You've made your point, next time I'll just shut my trap and dance!


Once the line up arrives, it's time to start getting the costumes in order.  For the purpose of this blog, let's pretend the show is in a week on a Saturday at 2 pm. The show is a 45 minute show and I will be dancing four regions - Veracruz, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Chiapas.  If any of the costumes need laundering or dry cleaning, they get taken to the cleaners.  However, if it's just a shirt that needs washing, I'll do it at home and save some cash.  Once the costumes are clean they get preassembled so to speak.  This is something Richard taught me from the get go.  

Lets take my Veracruz costume for example.  I will put the pants and guayabera on one hanger with the guayabera unbuttoned and ready to go.  Then in the pocket of the guayabera will be my silk scarf/bandanna and my scarf ring.  The costume is all together and ready with the exception of the boots and hat.  In a garment bag it goes and it's onto the next regions costume - I do the same for all of them.  Having them all together and organized help facilitate those quick costume changes that often need to take place.  There's no time to be looking around for stuff once the show gets going.  Richard has a policy that once the show starts, the cd or iPod play list keeps going - no stopping!  To facilitate this demand, costume tricks like snap buttons vs. regular buttons make a huge difference.  Velcro is another trick.  Strippers use snaps and Velcro for a good reason.  It makes it quick to take off!  It sounds like a strip tease sometimes back in those dressing rooms let me tell you!


So once the costumes are all organized and ready, it's time to polish or spray the boots.  White boots need to be white and black boots, black.  You want to look your best and make a lasting impression - head to toe!

Now all the costumes are ready for the show.  One thing I learned the hard way was not to pack the car up with my costumes too early.  The California heat sure makes the interior hot, like an iron.  Early on, I loaded up the car a day before a show and my cowboy hat lost its shape.  It went flat around the rim.  The heat killed it.  So I had to take it in and have it reshaped.  I bought myself a nice expensive Stone hat from Mexico.  I was so disappointed when it lost its curves. So now I take extra care of it.


I always try extra hard the week of the show to avoid all those carbonated temptations!  Soda, beer and anything that "sparkles" bloat you up like Violet from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory who turns into the giant bulging blueberry.  No one wants to see a hot air balloon dance!  So I do my best to stay away from them.  I also try to lighten my overall intake and avoid drinks that could impair my thinking or make me feel sluggish and heavy.  Gotta stay light on my feet.  It's an ugly feeling when you feel fat in your costumes. Everyone is looking at you already on stage but then you start thinking to yourself, "Why are they looking at me?"  You become very self conscious.  That's just another thing on your mind to deal with so it's better just to work on staying slim so you don't have the issue!


Now we are up to the 24 hour period before the show.  Almost show time.  Getting a full nights rest is important.  People want to see perky, animated and alive performers.  So getting enough rest the night before the show is a necessity.  


After a good nights rest and a strong cup of Starbucks coffee, it's time to start the grooming phase.  Let's take a trip into the bathroom together!  First thing I do is trim the mustache and goatee.  I use a No. 2 on my Wahl trimmer.  Then I hop into the shower for a relaxing spa steamy experience.  Let's step behind the shower curtain shall we!  While there, I shave my head and five o'clock shadow.  Then comes an intense exfoliating scrub down.  One that would rival that of Joan Crawford!  Did I just hear somebody call me "Mommie Dearest"?  I use lots of soap!  You want to have that shower fresh scent!


After a good rinse off, its time to move onto the next phase of grooming process - nose hair and ear hair elimination.  Yes, believe it!  I keep my apartment very cold.  They say that hair grows faster at cold temperatures.  And at my age, well the hair grows in all the wrong places!  Tweezers please.  A vigorous plucking ensues!  Get in there and Rip 'em out!  Gotta get all those wiry buggers.  I do this on a regular basis already.  Nonetheless, it never fails that you discover an ear hair that's so long it must have been growing in there for months!  Oh my, looks like I may have set a new world record.  Someone call Guinness!



Now you may be asking, "Michael is that really necessary?  After all your up there on stage, who's gonna see them?"  You're right!  From a distance no one would probably even notice.  I'm more concerned with meeting people after the show.  Got to have good public relations!  You only have one chance to make a good first impression.  I don't want hair to stand in the way of that.


Here is a classic example.  Recently I went to see a show with a celebrity entertainer.  For the purpose of my blog, they shall remain anonymous.  In the course of the show they stepped down from the stage and made their way through the audience. (Cue Jaws movie theme music).  The performer weaved their way through the audience toward where I was.  Next thing I knew, they were right beside me.  Pretty cool.

After a brief initial episode of being star struck, I suddenly realized they had a severe case of nose hair, seriously.  (Cue screeching music from Psycho).  You could see it even with all the stage makeup.  In fact the powder make up made it worse.  It was like they were wearing nose hair enhancing mascara.  OMG, what a bush!  I'm not even exaggerating here.  It was an overdose of nose hair reality.  I was face to face with their bush and all I could think was, "Wow, they should really do something about that!"  Someone hand me a weed wackier please!  I'm going in!  Now anytime I think of this celebrity or hear someone mention their name, all I can think about is, "Oh yeah, they're the one with the big bush!"


I don't want people to remember me like that!  I'll probably be remembered as the tall white dancing fool that swishes instead.  "Lawd Gesis it's on fire!"  I never realized that I obsessed so much over my looks.  I don't think it's because I'm narcissistic necessarily.  I think I'm OCD.  The older I get, the worse it becomes.  Oh just add that to the list:  OCD, ADD & OBW.  Figure that one out!  Help!  This Wedo's gone crazy!  In fact, you can call me a Wedo Gone Wild or WWW!  There's a fourth title.  Now I'm Michael Smith, OCD, ADD, OBW, WWW.  I'm out of control, over qualified and over heated.  One hot mess.  I think I just need a "cold pop" to cool down here for a second.  Oh that's right, no soda.  Phooey.  (Taking a moment to gather myself).


After the stream of tears from my eyes dry, leaving a delta of salty, white trails, it's time to complete the ritual and complete the mask.  I apply MICA cream to take away the wrinkles and tighten the skin and use a black pencil to fill in the goatee, eyebrows and cover up the gray.  An instant face lift, removing fifteen years of aging.  I'm suddenly in my prime again.  With a quick snip of the nails and a brush of the pearly whites, it's time to move on.


Then I dash into the bedroom to complete my transformation.  After a quick application of deodorant and cologne, it's time for the under garments!  White briefs and a white T-shirt and white socks.  I also pack a pair of black socks because when I wear black boots, if there is time, I change sock color.  I saw someone dance once and their pant leg rose and you could see their white socks, which bothered me.  So I keep a black pair handy so I can avoid that costume tragedy as well.  It's all in these little details that make the polished difference.

I complete my wardrobe with jeans and the group logo shirt and it's time to load up the costumes in the car and get going.  Now if there is still plenty of time before the performance, at least 3 to 4 hours, I will eat something light.  Oftentimes, however, I will not have anything but water until after the show.  I've shared in the past how I learned that lesson the hard way.  No more conversations with Mr. Upchuck for me.  This reaction must be another side affect from nerves and stress because I can eat before practice with little or no problems.  Sticking with water is usually the best option for me before a show.

Depending on traffic, Herencia typically performs at events that are a within a two hour driving radius from my apartment.  With the help of Siri navigation and Pandora Radio, the trips are a breeze. 


Everyone dancing in the show is expected to arrive at least an hour before the start of the show.  Sometimes earlier.  Upon arrival, typically you are directed where the dancers will be changing.  However, not all places have changing rooms or areas.  More on that in a moment.  First thing I do is build the garment rack and unpack the car of all the costumes.  Then I wheel the rack over to where ever they have us set up.  Sometimes we have a nice private area, sometimes it's a public restrooms, sometimes it's right out in the open.  Typically, when in the open we try to cover each other and block people's view as others change.

I recall one performance where they had us changing right out in the open in an area right by the place we danced.  It was like we were giving them both a show and a side show.  They really got their monies worth!  One time we were asked not to change in the public restrooms but to go change in our cars.  The whole performance was spent running back and forth to our vehicles to change on the sidewalk by our cars.  Very inconvenient.  Thank goodness no paparazzi were around.   


At this point, I get all my costumes ready and do the show.  I get them all laid out so that there will be a smooth flow.  I try to avoid as much chaos backstage as possible and center myself.  Sometimes things come up at a performance.  You can't anticipate everything.  You just adjust. 

On several occasions we have gone out to the dance floor for the first dance, only to discover the dance floor is like a sheet of ice.  So slick that the nails on the bottom of your boots act like skates.  One trick I was shown to deal with this is spraying hairspray on the bottom of your boots before going on stage.  This prevents any embarrassing mishaps on stage.  No one wants to see you fall on your butt.  Then again, in modern society they probably do and hopefully catch it on video so they can post it on YouTube.  I've also seen dancers put electrical tape over the nails in extreme slippery cases.


After popping an Altoid mint in my mouth, it's show time.  Got to make sure you have fresh breath otherwise your dance partners will give you grief for it.  Perform the show.

After the show is over it is time to repack the costumes and repack the car.  Commonly, the host of the event will offer us food and ask us to stick around and enjoy the party or event.  Sometimes, not.  It is nice when they do because usually you're pretty hungry by that time.  Although I keep a little padding on my belly as reserves - just in case.  At the end of the night, you drive home and unpack your car, only to get ready for the next time.  That's the whole day for you.  It's a cycle that repeats over and over, as shows are booked.  A lot of work and activity that many never consider.  I'm just a guy dancer, you can imagine all the work that is involved for the women.  So much more.  There you have it.  Did I expose to much?  I hope not! 

Be sure to check back next week for another posting!  Have a great week.  This drama momma is out of here!  Remember, deadline for your logo submission is August 31, 2013.  Don't delay and submit today!

****ATTENTION ALL BIG WEDO FANS & FOLLOWERS:  MARK YOUR CALENDARS - SEPTEMBER 29, 2013 - HERENCIA MEXICANA WILL BE PERFORMING AT THE LA COUNTY FAIR.  THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR THOSE OF YOU IN THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AREA TO COME OUT AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!  MEET THE WEDO!  LET'S PACK THE PLAZA AND SET RECORD ATTENDANCE FOR THE SHOW!  HOPE TO SEE EVERYONE THERE.  MORE DETAILS TO COME AS THE EVENT GETS CLOSER!****


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
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.