Dance : Sandoval Leads Danza Floricanto

Spoken introductions by artistic director Gema Sandoval always deepen the experience of seeing Danza Floricanto/USA in unusual ways. Sandoval not only supplies contextual program notes, she reveals a certain tension towards the material--an awareness of sexism in Mexican society, for instance, that she attempts to neutralize in her choreographies.

The company’s strongly danced program at La Mirada Theatre on Saturday came complete with Sandoval’s gentle, bilingual reminders that her suites of regional Mexican music and dance had become subtly Americanized, part of the heritage of everyone born on this side of the border.

To her, the stamping, whirling “Concheros” (derived from pre-Hispanic ritual) represented “the spirit of the Chicano,” and a new-found pride and authority in the dancing showed that her company completely understood.

With Rey Medina’s Mariachi Mexicapan providing accompaniments at once mellow in tone, zesty in spirit and immaculate in attack, the dances of Colima, Nayarit, Guerrero and Jalisco isolated basic cultural issues--some of them primal (courtship strategy), others procedural (the use of the machete).


Unified by the image of kisses behind a sombrero, “Fiesta Tapatia” displayed the men’s mastery of intricate footwork, while “Potorricos Nayaritas” gloried in the women’s bold skirt-swirling. “El Acabo Colimote” had the most sustained machete maneuvers of the evening, but also a disarming sweetness and ease.

“Lindo Guerrero” flowed deftly between formal group dancing and brief showpiece duets on a central platform. Somehow, the general, celebratory scarf-swirling led imperceptibly and organically to the gymnastic iguana impersonations and other fanciful mimicry. Only the entrance, near the end, of women wearing shifts looked arbitrary and broke the continuity.

In contrast, nearly everything and everyone in the Veracruz suite seemed crowded, manipulated, forced. Changes in pattern and activity never evolved; they were cued. These people never seemed to be dancing for their own pleasure; they were pawns of the choreographer. Yes, the Jarocho music and “La Bamba” duets proved (as always) irresistible, but this whole segment needs rethinking.