In the darkness of Reynolds Performance Hall, the anticipating audience hushes to silence against the intense backdrop of Hispanic music.
All were anxiously awaiting the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, performed Oct. 12-13.
The general mood was optimistic. It is hard anticipate what will happen with a show this unique.
Freshman Jen Rhoda said: “I don’t really know what to expect. I’m excited because I love watching dance.”
Conway resident Susan Downing said she has attended around thirty different shows at UCA and has come to expect the best from all of them.
“I think it will be a wonderful evening. It should be very entertaining. These things are always good,” Downing said.
The music played for several minutes before the curtain rose, creating the appropriate atmosphere. The show kicked off with an amazing custom dance to the gods titled “Matachines.” When the curtain rose, there was one man standing in a brilliant ritual costume. He began what was to be an energetic group dance.
Right from the start, everyone was in awe. The dances expressed the essence of Mexican culture.
Activities interpreted into dance included a wedding, a party, hunting, fishing, war, legends, celebrations, religion and more. The dances not only expressed the culture through body movements and costumes, but also through melodic vocals and Mexican instruments. These cultural elements combined, creating a spectacular display of the Mexican way of life.
One of the biggest crowd pleasers was the dance titled, “The Charreada.” It turned into a magnificent group dance, but began with a lone male cowboy, dancing and lassoing with amazing talent. Later in the dance, the cowboy and a woman put a ribbon on the floor and danced on top of it. They then picked up what had become a perfect bow.
Another wonderful dance called, “Tlacotalpan Festivity,” was a celebration of the Virgin of Candelaria on Jan. 31 in the town of Tlacotalpan. There were eight large puppets among the dancers that each stood for cultural figures and archetypal forces. The effect was mezmerising as some of the characters came into the audience.
The final dance was explosive, shooting streamers into the audience as the room filled with cheers and applause. Needless to say, the ballet received three standing ovations.
The performance proved to be very culture enriching for Conway. Public Appearances and Reynolds Performance Hall Director Guy Couch said: “They’re a very large company and they were a good price. We thought it was really good to bring in a Mexican ballet. There are a lot of Hispanic people here and it’s a good thing. This is the biggest of the big.”
Couch said the ballet was an excellent chance to explore and understand Mexican culture.
“As we’re dealing with the immigration issue, this can’t hurt. These are dances from the historic culture of Mexico. Just the exposure to a Mexican culture company is good,” Couch said.
Freshman William Strigel attended the showing and said he was impressed.
“I think it’s great. I’m trying to appreciate new cultures and this is a first step. You’ve seen it in the movies, but this is how it really is. I like the music,” Strigel said.
Tom and Iris McAnally, both retired UCA faculty and staff, said: “The costumes are lovely and the dancing is outstanding.”
Junior Maria Martinez, a student from Spain here for one semester, said: “It’s amazing and very colorful. I’ve seen it before because I went to Mexico. Some of the songs we know in Spain and some of the dances are very similar. You come to realize the kind of people they are – very happy and friendly.”
Freshman Kendra Coleman said: “I like it. It’s a learning experience to see another culture.”
Freshman Josh Soboe said he got more out of the experience than expected.
“It’s awesome. I came for bonus points at first. Now I’m really interested in learning about their culture and the way they do things,” Saboe said.
Senior Chase Erwin said he has been to ballets, but this one was unique.
“I thought it was amazing. I’ve never been to a ballet where the audience participated that much,” Erwin said.
Kim Hardwick and Susan Matthews said: “It was outstanding. They really seemed to enjoy themselves. It seemed as more of an expression of true enjoyment of dance and culture rather than just a performance. You go to a U.S. ballet and everything is beautiful, but this was very powerful.”