Subject: The Turtle Dance
Date: 04 Feb 1999 00:00:00 GMT
From: "König Preuße, GmbH" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: Lou Minotti & the Clamsauce Enema Band
THE TURTLE DANCE
Those who study autochthonous Mexican dance say that there are
themes which reappear all over the country. The turtle is one such
theme with higher incidence in coastal areas. In Oaxaca there are
two different versions of the "turtle dance" one from the coast and
one from the Tehuantepec Isthmus. One of the most original ways
of performing it can be seen in Santa Maria Huazolotitlán, in the
municipality of José Maria Morelos to the Southeast of Santiago
Pinotepa Nacional. The town has 4,700 inhabitants, most of whom
are directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. The majority of
them either grow or sell lemons, farm corn, sesame seeds and
peanuts. They also raise cattle, sell meat and dairy produce.
Mixtec, the regions main language is not spoken he re as 98% of
the population is of African descent.
The "turtle dance", as danced on the coast, ridicules Spanish
rule and remembers how black slaves were exploited during the
Colonial Period. A whip carried by Don Pancho symbolizes the
harsh treatment the slaves suffered. In this dance, Pancho is a
black foreman who is well-trusted by his master and who ill-treats
his fellow slaves.
La Minga, his wife, is a light-hearted and coquettish woman
who is constantly paid flirtatious compliments by the other men on
the hacienda. This drives her husband mad with anger and he beats
both his wife and anyone who dares kiss or cuddle her.
During the dance, Minga offers her "daughter" to people in the
audience and asks them to hold her. If the person chosen refuses to
take the doll, Minga screams for Pancho to punish the person who
dared slight her daughter. If the doll is accepted Pancho arrives
immediately, accusing the man of being involved with his wife and
he is also punished. The punishment consists in having to dance
with Minga. If he doesn't want to dance he has to give the dancers
a personal object or pay a fine to avoid punishment. These "fines"
are used at the end of the dance to buy alcohol for the dancers
after the dance.
The turtle dances around the other characters and at the end
pretends to lay eggs. Having put the eggs on the floor and Pancho
picks them up and gives them to an important guest at the dance.
The costumes are as follows. The men cover their heads with
two cotton squares and a mask and a hat over them. They wear old
shirts and trousers covered in patches and huaraches, handmade
sandals. The women also cover their heads with two scarves and a
mask, but wear a shawl over them instead. They also wear long
flowery skirts covered in black lace, tights and huaraches. Pancho
wears cowboy style leather trousers, boots and spurs. He carries a
rope, a "binza" ( a cowhide whip), and a cows horn over his
shoulder. Minga wears a wig, a long dress, a shawl crossed over
her chest, tights and high heels and carries a doll (her daughter) in
her arms. The dancer who plays the turtle carries a shell made
from a wooden frame covered in cloth.
Fourteen men dance, seven of them dressed up as women. The
dance is made up of seven "sones" which have a variety of steps
even though the music remains quite similar. At times the steps are
improvised and then the dancers return to the original
choreography. The music is played on wind instruments.