MacArthur students in grades nine through 12 got a unique opportunity in the spring. They learned about Aztec culture and dance, which culminated in a performance.
The nine dancers form part of the De La Rosa Dance Company. Elisa de la Rosa is the company’s artistic director and choreographer. She is also the dance educator at MacArthur Ninth Grade School.
De la Rosa decided to develop a performance inspired by Aztec Dance. She infused the work with original choreography and elements of modern dance. Award-winning Houston artist Lizbeth Ortiz also collaborated on the Mundo Azteca production.
According to de la Rosa, the production gave youth a way to look at history, culture and identity. For the project, they learned about traditional indigenous Aztec principles.
“I wanted to give youth a little bit of identity,” de la Rosa says. “This was a way for them to explore their heritage. This helped them understand certain customs and appreciate their culture. For our non–Hispanic friends, it helped broaden their perspective toward other cultures.”
The traditional form of concheros inspired the Mundo Azteca performance. The Aztec dance preserves many elements of pre-Columbian religious rituals. They are based on the traditions of the Nahuatl-speaking people.
Nahuatl is the language spoken by the majority of the inhabitants of central Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest. It is still spoken today by more than a million Nahua people. It was the language of the powerful Aztecs. Their culture dominated the region for centuries.
These dances represent the way Aztec Indians worshipped fire, water, air, and earth. Conchero dancers perform the dances as an act of worship to the Aztec gods.
In Mexico, conchero dancers perform at seasonal festivals. They perform at sites oriented north, east, south, and west. They reflect the ancient religious importance of the four cardinal directions. Processions and invocations precede the dances. Paraphernalia include floral decorations, banners and concheros. The latter are small lutes made from an armadillo shell.
“The goal was to give audience members a new way of looking at the world through indigenous eyes,” said de la Rosa. “The dances represent the elements of nature. They represent the universal four directions of the earth. And they represent our connected human existence. The dances express this through the ‘circle‘ concept. This is where wisdom, harmony and culture meet with respect and equality.”
The students wore costumes resembling those worn by conchero dancers. They worked with Ortiz to create the colorful feathered headpieces.
Visit the YouTube link de la Rosa posted to watch the entire performance.
De la Rosa is grateful to everyone that helped make the production a reality. She posted a Kickstarter fund a month before the performance.
“We hoped to raise $1,300,” said de la Rosa. “We got more! We had 28 backers provide $1,480. We are grateful to everyone that supported this project. They helped bring this project to life. Tlazohcamati (‘thank you’ in Nahuatl)!”
(That’s Nahuatl for “Marvelous!”)
Director of Written Communication & Spanish Media
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