**For Immediate Release**
Culture Lives Through Dance
- released by OPSU Campus Communications 06-27-07
by Laura Hays
Goodwell, Okla. — Oklahoma Panhandle State University's Hughes-Strong Auditorium came alive Friday evening as youth participating in the Mexican Traditions camp gave a colorful, spirited dance performance. The 19 high school and college students worked all week on traditional dances from the Vera Cruz, Durango, and Michoacán regions of Mexico and also crafted costumes and stage props featured during the routines.
Rudy Garcia and his wife, María Luisa Colmenarez, taught the group different dances, assimilating the culture of each area into their instruction by acquainting the students in traditional Mexican handcrafts, history, and geography. The San Jose, California couple both research Mexican folk culture and history and have established a vast network of information resources and traveled throughout Mexico to research the material in their work. Garcia's book, Folklórico Handbook, is currently used in colleges all over their home state.
Guymon High School's Alma Folklórica dancers started the evening by performing dances from Veracruz. The simple all-white costumes and red bandanas of the men provided a perfect contrast to the white, filmy dresses adorned with colorful, elaborate accessories and hairpieces worn by the women.
Many local Mexican Americans hail from the Durango area, and the entire group performed two dances known as "Chotis." They originated in Bohemia and were very popular in Europe and Mexico during the 19th century. The women wore sweeping, colorful cotton skirts with the men dressed in jeans, shirts and bandanas.
Following the Durango dances, Garcia and Colmenarez proved they still have the right stuff as they danced "Que Te Vas, Te Vas," a traditional routine from Tierra Caliente (hot land) in Guerrero.
The final suite of dances from the Lake Region of Michoacán had the audience rolling with laughter as it started with a dance of "The Little Old Men." Five of the male dancers donned masks and straw hats with ribbons streaming off the brims as well as traditional serapes, and danced stooped over with canes. While pretending their legs shook with the effort to remain upright, the young men put on an energetic and physically demanding performance.
While one of the "old men," played by Daniel Guadían, remained on stage, maidens appeared with baskets of food and other items, and old man promptly began flirting with them. Meanwhile, fishermen came on stage to prepare a net for fishing. The "fish," portrayed by Huston García in an elaborate costume made by the campers, is eventually caught and the residents of Michoacán can enjoy a feast.
Following the entertainment, several small children spontaneously began acting out parts of the performance. Thanks to the Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, the culture and traditions of Mexico not only endure, they are passed on to a new generation.