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Guatemala Dance


dance in guatemala

In this modern era where technology reigns supreme, it is a wonder to behold something as rich in history and tradition as a Guatemalan folkloric dance. Well-orchestrated through centuries of practice, folkloric dancing is the highlight of any fiesta or festival. Dating back to pre-conquest times, Guatemalan folkloric dances reflect ancient Mayan, Spanish and even African cultures. Each baile weaves an elaborate story as dancers prance about in vibrant Mayan costumes and ceremonial masks or traditional Guatemalan fashion to the rhythms of the marimba, flute or drums.


The quintessential Guatemalan dances convey spectacular historical accounts and captivate audiences of all ages. The horrific conquest of indigenous populations by the Spaniards is poignantly evident in the dance of La Conquista. La Punta is a physical feat of strength as participants remain poised on the balls of their feet for hours at a time. Moros y Cristianos captures a single historical event in which the Moors were expelled from Spain in 1462. Gender barriers blur as men don feminine masks to participate in El Yancun├║. Yet perhaps the most incredible of these folkloric dances is the Palo Volador. After consuming a bit of liquid courage, men climb up a wooden pole one hundred feet high and attempt a primitive form of bungee jumping as nail-biters gasp and hold their breath below.


Arguably the best troupe featuring traditional dances is the Guatemalan National Modern and Folkloric Ballet which has delighted audiences for over forty years. Not only a treasure to Guatemalans, this dance group has also entranced a more international crowd with its performances in Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas (South, Central, and North). Keep an eye peeled for performances by this dynamic crew.


Numerous opportunities to witness these gorgeous dances arise throughout the year. The Guatemalan National Folk Festival, hosted every August since 1972, is an excellent way to view Guatemalan heritage through dance and other indigenous art forms as well such as pottery, crafts and painting. In Cobán, the National Folklore Festival Rabin Ajau held in July features several impressive renditions of folkloric dance. Near the finale of this festival, local Indian women compete for the title of Rabin Ajaw in a pageant where the emphasis lies not in the beauty of the women, but in their cultural pride and preservation.

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13 May 2010

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