Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company celebrates its fifteenth year in Los Angeles this year, bringing their full-length evening Magia del Sureste to John Anson Ford Theatres in Hollywood for a return performance that boasts an incredible, familial way of celebrating its audience.
The evening, danced by both Grandeza company members and by upcoming academy students who have earned their ‘apprentice’ titles, was segmented, each section depicting cities of the Mayan south. Dances brought to life the legends of the empire’s cities, a few numbers representing each place. And while at moments it was quite clear that there were student performers onstage, the young dancers moved with commitment and pride that made it easy to forget any hops and hesitation that came before.
Grandeza sold seats like I have never seen—the Ford Theatre’s parking lots and auxiliary lots filled, wall-to-wall space in that spacious venue, and an incredibly high ratio of families to individuals. Everyone came out to support their own, and support they did.
In a long and taxing program that required high energy from all dancers almost the entire way through, vocal cues from both audience and dancers kept the company going, their smiles infectious. The vocal habit (more common in social dance spaces) echoes a livelier kind of respect, still appreciative but almost boisterous rather than reverent. Though performers were costumed and made up onstage, the audience became a part of the show themselves. But one could always feel and hear the stamps and stomps above the cheers—the integrity of the dance took priority and the performers claimed the stage as their own.
Though I wanted more groundedness from some of the younger dancers, the performers of Grandeza showed a confidence built on cultural pride, a unifying force that brought them through the program together. Much of this was conveyed through the carriage of the upper body throughout: men kept their hands by their sides with a stillness while dancing rapid and difficult sequences, and women stepped and turned with posture rooted in strength. The dances throughout the evening showed a good amount of diversity and range, as well: different styles evoked celebratory, fearless, and even intimate relationships.
Bold costumes in abundance elevated the evening, both in terms of cultural accuracy and of aesthetic beauty. Grandeza prides itself on researching its movements and costumes in order to preserve traditions and customs of Mexico—this performance did not disappoint on that front. Each city warranted a different costume (sometimes, two or three), well-fitted and styled with appropriate jewelry and headpieces. Not only did the dancers have to change quickly into the next one; each costume was almost a part of the choreography. For the women especially, moving and holding skirts at just the right angle made the dance appear clean and synchronized, a whole new layer to technique that really finished each piece with finesse.
Grandeza’s ability to bring its audience into the evening created an uninterrupted bubble where Mexican families and friends alike could share stories and preserve culture through a bold expression of art—for technique, performance, pride and bravery, the audience had many reasons to applaud.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle, July 10, 2019
To learn more about Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company, click here.
Featured image: Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company – Dancers: Death performed by Cristina Romero and Princess performed by Alexia Espinoza – Photo by Luis Gonzalez