"Dream Dancing in Mexico City" by Amaya

Copyright © 2006
originally published in
The Chronicles Magazine

"A la derecha! Muy bien! Andale! Donde esta mi Pepsi?" (To the right! Very good! That's it! Where is my Pepsi?)

Finally, one of my dreams had come true; I was dancing and teaching in Mexico! Although Spanish was my first language, I really needed to concentrate and make sure I was clear in my accent and dialect in front of a huge room of beautiful dancing Latinas. Samira Vasquez was my sponsor and immediately started to help me practice my Spanish while she effortlessly switched between the two languages on the drive from the airport. For years I had hoped and wished for a weekend seminar south of the border and now thanks to the rage of pop singer/belly dancer, Shakira, and also "El Clon" a Brazilian "novella" or soap opera in South America that featured a belly dancer...well...this dance has become a huge hit all over Central and South America! Lucky me!

Arriving on Friday night in Mexico City was like arriving in the middle of a bowl of fireflies. Imagine an airport in the middle of over 18 million people and cars! This megalopolis is one of the largest cities in the world and that has slowly engulfed other, smaller cities. Mexico City, with its distinct
mestizo culture, blending native Indian (Nahuatl) and Spanish heritages, has in recent decades become one of the great financial, economic, educational, cultural, and tourist centers of the world! The traffic reminded me of downtown Cairo! Samira expertly drove through side streets, dodging dogs, flower stalls, fruit stands, taxis, while talking and honking her horn at the same time. She was beautifully dressed in fashionable jeans with pointed shoes, beautifully made up eyes and long, dark hair. "There are no bad drivers in Mexico...they are all dead!" she said in her perfect and charming English. We both burst out laughing!

How are the students different in Mexico? First of all they were a little younger than the average workshop attendant in America. Many of the students knew about many U.S. based dancers because of easy DVD access and the internet. This group had studied a lot of Egyptian styled dance with Yousry and Nourhan Sharif and so my style of dance was a change for them. I found that the introduction of Danza Mora style and Latin flavored music made the class warm up quickly. Perhaps because of their cultural and musical background, they caught on quickly and soon were traveling across the studio like pros. They were attentive and eager to talk. My combination "Spanglish" was fun for us and we chatted through the lunch hour. Firmly requested in my contract was to provide certificates of completion to all the weekend participants. This was a first for me, but having my computer handy, it was easily done--in gold leaf no less! They were officially distributed at the end of the weekend course.

Instead of a show featuring many local dancers, this Saturday night show featured only me and a Flamenco duo. The theatre was dusty, full of old energy and quite beautiful. After teaching for 4 hours, I was asked to perform 40 minutes! This was quite a challenge but the curiosity and the attention from the audience carried me through the dances easier than I thought. I personally regretted not seeing the local dancers perform though.

Mexico City has many studios and many teachers and sponsors. This weekend was another one of those where overlapping events had made Samira tense that the attendance would be low. Yet, it all turned out fine with a good workshop and a solid Saturday night show.

The food in Mexico was wonderful--fresh, tasty and always beautifully presented. No fast food hamburgers here! I was also touched by the old world style manners of the people. I was surprised and amused to see two nearby men jump to light Samira's cigarette while chatting at a restaurant. --I thought this was only done in Hollywood movies! My coffee cream was stirred for me; the wine poured every time I tried to reach for the bottle; doors were opened; I never had to carry my luggage if a gentlemen was around. Doormen, waiters, taxi drivers all were kind and extra attentive. I felt very special and realized sadly how American culture is losing its daily cuisine to fast food and also its genteel manners to fast times.

On Sunday right after the workshop, Samira treated me to visit the home of beloved Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is regarded as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. Her house, "Casa Azul." has been restored into a museum and is open to the public. Located near the stylish suburb, Coyoacan, it was close to our workshop location and feeling tired and satisfied with the weekend, we made time to tour this artist's home.

The inside and outside of the house was painted in jewel tones and primary colors, as to be expected of an artist. The home sat in a circumference around fountains and gardens. Almost every room faced inward towards the gardens. Mexico is known for its dramatic pyramids. There is a replica of one in her garden! And like in many Mexico cities...feral cats stretched out languidly here and there. The kitchen had doves adorning the walls. The outline of these doves were made up of may glued, tiny, clay pots. A most arresting sight was of her braces, corset, wheelchair and crutches leaning near her bed. Frida had suffered through many debilitating illnesses. Her mentor, husband and also well-known artist, Diego Rivera, had his hat hanging on a hook nearby. A small room held her easel, brushes and bottle and jars of paints. It was back-to-back with Diego's easel. This tour treat was a magnificent ending to a beautiful late summer day in Mexico and a dream dance weekend.

On Monday morning I arrived at the airport the required three hours early. I found out my flight was delayed by two more hours. Five hours of wandering the Mexico City airport led to some duty free shopping! I came home with designer bottles of tequila and rum. So I am still enjoying my dance trip to Mexico City in the evenings when I sip a little "memory."