National Ballet Director Invites You

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I’ve told you about this season’s “not-to-be-missed” ballet gala with lead dancers from Mexico’s best dance companies: the National Bellas Artes as well as the Ballet de Monterrey. They will be joined on stage by top students from two of Mexico’s leading ballet schools—in Veracruz and Monterrey—as well as from a local mazatlecan ballet academy.

The International Ballet Gala will take place on Sunday November 17th at 6:00 pm in the Angela Peralta Theater. It is a fundraiser for DIF Mazatlán, which helps families in need. Tickets are available at the Angela Peralta box office or by sending a WhatsApp to Carolina at +52-1-669-941-2550 and paying via PayPal. There is only one performance, so be sure to secure your good seats now.

On Monday I had the distinct pleasure and privilege to host the Director of the National Dance Company, Maestro Cuahutémoc Nájera, in our home. He and his wife make their home here in Mazatlán, and have high hopes for our local cultural and dance scene. He tells me how much he loves the Angela Peralta Theater, and how he performed there as a young dancer, before it was completely remodeled.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the maestro. He is very easy to talk to, charming, and down to earth, counter to the stereotype of so many talented artists. Below is the promo video for the event. Get your tickets now, as I’m confident this event will sell out.

Giant Alebrije Parade

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I was most fortunate to have to work in Mexico City on Friday October 18th. The reason? Because the following day was the Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales, a parade of gigantic, whimsical and fantastical wooden folk art pieces made from papier maché.

This year at the commencement of the parade the giant alebrijes were named a Mexican cultural heritage—the only form of folk art unique to the old Federal District. Since they came to life from the imagination of Pedro Linares in the 1930s, a couple of pueblos in Oaxaca have made names for themselves by carving alebrijes out of copal wood. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The parade included more than TWO HUNDRED handmade, monumentally sized alebrijes in fantastical shapes and colors. I was psyched to be able to photograph them in front of the cathedral and with the Palace of Fine Arts as a backdrop. After the several hour parade they “parked” the alebrijes along Reforma Avenue, and thousands more people were able to admire their beauty.

Many of the artists marched in the parade together with their works, as did many of the “hands” that helped build the incredible pieces. They honest to God took my breath away! What a great way to spend a weekend with girlfriends!

On the other side of La Reforma was a huge exhibition of skulls, called “MexiCráneos,” also very cool. The cempasúchil flowers were all out. I was excited to take photos of them with the Angel de la Independencia, but she is covered with scaffolding and under rehabilitation, and the flowers were full of thousands of people. So much for those gorgeous, quiet, no-people photos with the Angel in her glory!

 

 

 

Humble Beginnings Don’t Hold Him Back!

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+ The Masculine Form (project in development)
Photos: @santiago_barreiro @insidenatgeo #insidenatgeo

Most every society worldwide seems to be suffering a breakdown in the social fabric these days, a rise in corruption and violence, a loss of the values that make individuals and our communities healthy.

Maestro Cuahutémoc Nájera—the director of Mexico’s National Ballet Company—and his wife, Maestra Carolina Rios, strongly believe in the power of dance to strengthen communities and build strong, healthy, disciplined and principled individuals. Luckily for us, they live here and see dance as a tool to secure a better future for Mazatlán and México. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The maestros shared with me a post by es+Cultura that I found to be extremely powerful, and I have translated it for you below:

“Seven years ago the priest told Aaron’s grandma, Magda, ‘get him out of that ballet; the kids there become gay.” To avoid conflict she agreed, though she never followed through, because her grandson’s dream was to be a dancer and she was going to support him.

Aaron de Jesús Márques is one of the talents discovered by a program (PROVER) that seeks to promote dance in the city of Córdoba, in the state of Veracruz, giving scholarships to boys from complex social contexts. If the boy has needs and the desire, they pay for his studies, transportation, equipment and food for eight years, eight hours a day. The low enrollment of men in the private academy of Martha Sahagún was the impulse for this project, which now has various generations promoting the talent and diversity of Veracruz.

When he was barely seven years old Aaron didn’t even know what ballet was, in fact, the term didn’t sound familiar, but when the opportunity presented itself he didn’t hesitate even a minute to run up to the teacher who conducted the auditions to show her his physical conditioning. Months later when he’d begun his training, he understood that what his body was really asking him for was to dance ballet, and now no one would get in his way.

Aaron lives with his grandmother, or better said, his mother, as that’s what he likes to call her. She raised him once his Dad died and his biological mother emigrated for a better life economically. Magda supported the family. She was responsible for feeding, taking care of and giving life to the dreams of her grandson. The career of a classical ballet dancer involves a lot of dedication and discipline; it is a family project and in most cases requires the moral support of a feminine head of the household.

Classical dance gave the boy a stylizing manner to move his body, it proposed a language in which it wasn’t necessary to use impact and force like so many other disciplines. Aaron dances to express himself without words, to liberate himself from the structure that questions, violates and judges masculine feelings.

The exercise of classical western dance has implicated from its beginnings situations of violation and exclusion, it has generated negative stereotypes against men who pursue this discipline as a way of life. The hegemonic precepts around what it means to “be a man” in Latin American culture tend to determine how ballet is seen as art. In this 21st century, respect for the male dancer still hasn’t penetrated deeply into society, where machismo and its prejudices only put pride in “manly” sports . With this line of reasoning, dance is habitually associated with femininity. In this sense, there are unequal conditions for dancers, with men playing subordinate roles. This conception brings with it endless social conflicts. Today’s man tries to feel, express and free himself from established obligations (to procreate, provide, protect). However, society insists on assigning gender roles when and where they should not be. Dance in and of itself should not divide, distinguish or bias.

Aaron and some of his colleagues, plus his teacher, will be here in Mazatlán on Sunday, 17th November, performing in the Angela Peralta Theater at 6:00 pm, along with principal dancers from Mexico’s two best ballet companies: Ballet de Monterrey and the National Bellas Artes. Get your tickets at the box office now or WhatsApp Carolina at 52-1-669-941-2550; the performance benefits DIF Mazatlán (local families in need).

In the video below, Maestro Nájera tells us a bit about Aaron’s terrific program in Cordoba, Veracruz, where for the past ten years street kids have been given a new lease on life and a future in professional dance through educational and dance scholarships with amazing results.

Carolina dedicates herself to teaching young students; she owns and runs a dance school up in the marina. In the video below, she talks to me about the ways she has witnessed dance helping her students to be stronger, healthier, with higher self esteem, more cooperative and disciplined, and her plans for programming in the public spaces of Mazatlán.

Block This Thursday Evening!

©5.DSC_0116One of my favorite artists here in Mazatlán, Rafael Avila Tirado, is opening a show at the Art Museum downtown with a reception at 7:00 pm on Thursday, December 3. Sadly, I’m going to be out of town, but I urge you not to miss it! Rafael has an incredible talent and a deep soul. You will not regret meeting him and seeing his work!

Avila art showSponsored by the Sinaloa Institute of Culture, the show is called Un Murmullo Agrio, Dulce y Nostálgico, or “A Murmur Sour, Sweet and Nostalgic.” In the video below, Rafael tells us about how these adjectives capture Mexico today, and also life in general—the sour: the violence and sadness; the sweet: working the fields, enjoying family; and the nostalgic: cows in the field and other scenes of life on the rancho in Robles where he grew up.

The artist opened his taller to give Greg and I a sneak preview of the eleven prints and nine paintings that will be on display through February, 2016. They are gorgeous, and all will be for sale! Below is just a sampling of his work; click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

 

Rafael began his career as an architect, entering the art world twelve years ago. He started making prints and graduated to painting. The artist has quite a few students, most of whom come on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He also does commissioned work.

Rafa’s studio is on the First Friday ArtWalk, right on the corner of Canizales and Aquiles Serdán, just down from the cathedral, in an airy second floor walkup above Deportenis. You can call him on his cell at 6699-16-66-56, email him, or, best, show up ready to toast him and his work on Thursday evening! And, please, give him my best, won’t you?

 

Day of the Dead Makeup Class

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My cousins Lori and Mary, and yours truly. I asked my friend Lilzy, who did my makeup, to put a rose on my forehead in honor of my Aunt Rose, my cousins’ wonderful Mom.

Do you love Day of the Dead? We all know Mazatlán has one of the BEST DODs in all of Mexico, what with the callejoneada parade, the incredible show inside the Angela Peralta Theater, the numerous gorgeous altars all over town, and events at the cemetery. Do you love joining in the traditional festivities? Would you like to be able to do your own or your friends’ makeup?

DODThis September and October, our beloved Centro Municipal de Arte/CMA/Municipal School of the Arts has been conducting free workshops in preparation for these big events, coordinated by the gorgeous, energetic and enthusiastic Cecilia Sanchez Duarte (nicknamed China). The latest was yesterday’s class in calaca (skeleton) or catrina makeup, conducted by Delfos dancer and makeup artist, Johnny Millán, with interpretation into English by China herself. It rocked!

The class was held from 5-7 pm in the air-conditioned comfort of the Jonathan Hotel, just across from the CMA, and was attended by about 40 people. China arranged the class in hopes that more and more of the city’s residents will dress up and volunteer to participate in the main events, including the parade and the performance in the theater.

The timing of this workshop was perfect for me, as my two beloved sister-cousins were visiting from Minnesota and Indiana. We get together for a girls’ vacation every October, and we always do a craft. What better “craft” than a Day of the Dead makeup class with a professional makeup artist—for free?!

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Cecilia Sanchez Duarte, director of Fine Arts at the CMA, in charge of Day of the Dead in the theater

Supplies for the Basic Makeup

Prior to the class, China had sent those of us who pre-registered a list of supplies to bring:

  • White concealer (corrector blanco),
  • Black eyeliner pencil (lapiz negro),
  • Black and white powders or eyeshadows (sombras),
  • Eyeshadows of different colors, and
  • Shiny things (e.g., sequins—lentejuelas, or crystals/gemstones). We also brought
  • Fake eyelashes (which we didn’t have time to apply) and
  • Eyelash glue, a couple of
  • Hand mirrors, a box of
  • Kleenex, and some
  • Props—a catrina hat and a couple of feather boas. I rarely put on makeup, so what we forgot to bring were
  • Brushes, Q-tips, applicators and blending sponges, also highly recommended.
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Johnny Millán, Delfos dancer, professional makeup artist, and our teacher for the day

Maestro Millán first talked to us all as we sat theater-style, explaining the different types of makeup, brushes and blending pads he likes to use. He told us that while we can’t get professional-quality white pancake theater makeup here in Mazatlán (he brings his from DF), the concealer works well. We’d just need to break off pieces and mix it into a paste (which we could do on the backs of our hands) till it was smooth and free of clumps.

He demonstrated the steps to a basic catrina makeup on a model, doing just half her face in order to save time on his explanation. After his demonstration, those of us attending got to either apply makeup to one another or to ourselves. We were all so excited to get started! He had some supplies to sell us, and was happy to share Q-tips and other applicators.

In the 90 minutes or so that we had available to do one another’s makeup, the most any of us were able to achieve was the basic makeup, with a teeny bit of customization. While we were working on the basic steps explained below, Maestro Millán finished up the makeup on the model. You can see what she looked like in the final photo in this post. Needless to say, the Maestro was fast, made it look so easy, and had really great results. That’s why he’s the professional, right?

Steps to the Basic Makeup

  1. Johnny showed us that the first step to creating a catrina makeup is to apply a thin white base coat. For this we used the concealer that we’d made into a smooth paste. He told us to apply this with our fingers or with a sponge, and that we don’t need to blend the white to cover the face perfectly; later when we apply white powder or eyeshadow over the concealer to fix it, the coverage will become much more perfect. He told us to be sure to avoid applying white to the area around the eyes, as we’d later paint them black or in colors, and to think about the costume we are going to be wearing: if our hair will be up, we should paint our ears; if we’ll have a plunging neckline, we’ll need to paint our chest, etc. Be sure not to put the white on too thickly; you can see in the photo that the base coat is very thin.

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    Step 1: White base coat

  2. Next we took a brush and set the base coat with a dusting of white powder or white eye shadow. This step was incredible. It really made the base coat look well blended, and it made the color pop! Not being a makeup queen myself, the power of the powder over the makeup really astounded me.

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    Step 2: White powder to seal the base coat

  3. Once we had our white face on, we proceeded to the eyes. Johnny told us to use the black eyeliner pencil and, in the direction of the growth of hairs on our eyebrows, to trace the brow line and then around the cavity of the eye, following the bone of the eye socket. Once we had the outline, we were to fill the area in with the black eyeliner pencil. Again, we didn’t need to worry about perfectly blending, as we’d next cover this area with black powder or eyeshadow. If you want to put colors on the eye area, you can apply glitter or shadow over the black, or you do it directly to the skin, depending on your creativity.

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    Step 3: The eye sockets

  4. We now needed to seal the black eyes with shadow or powder. Again, our rough-looking black eyes suddenly became velvety smooth and perfectly blended. It was amazing.
  5. From here Johnny told us to work on the mouth. This was by far the most difficult part of the basic makeup for most of us in the class.  He told us to follow the upper and lower lip lines, and extend the line out to where the teeth actually end in the back of the mouth, squaring off the outside. We then needed to make a center line, right where the lips meet, painting inside the lips a bit so the pink didn’t show. After that we made vertical lines to create teeth. One trick here is to round the roots of the teeth a bit with the eyeliner pencil, so they are not square but more natural looking.

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    Steps 4 and 5: Sealing the eye sockets and outlining the teeth

  6. It was important for the teeth to be bright white, so at this point we took an applicator and applied another dot of white concealer to each of the pearly teeth. This really made the teeth look real.

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    Step 6: Making the pearly whites pop

  7. The final main feature was the nose. We drew triangles over the nostril area, to look like the holes in a skull.

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    Step 7: The nasal cavity

  8. To finish the basic makeup, we needed to use the pencil to draw the jawline, and then seal that with black powder. We also dabbed black powder around the hairline, and used it to hollow under the cheekbone.

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    Step 8: Shadowing and contouring the facial outline and bone structure

  9. From here, Johnny told us our creativity could take free rein. We could put sequins around the eyes (he said we could use eyelash glue or even normal white Resistol water-soluble glue), liquid eyeliner to paint some cracks or decorative detail (sealing those details with powder), adding colored eyeshadow or glitter to the eyelids, or detailing the neck and chest. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Fortunately most of us attending felt that the makeup was pretty easy to do, and it was really fun! While 45 minutes for each face (our group painted one another) isn’t much, we were pretty psyched with the results.

12115980_943243912409327_3970495844696971161_nDay of the Dead Parade and Theater Event in Mazatlán 2015

While having a professional do your makeup here can be very affordable, now that I know how to do it, I’m so looking forward to opening a bottle of bubbly and sitting down with a few friends in front of the mirror on October 31.

That’s right! The callejoneada is on Halloween this year. Cecilia told us that’s because we normally do the parade on November 1st. This year, that date falls on a Sunday. CULTURAL didn’t feel they could ask all the volunteers to work on Sunday, and they’d have to pay overtime to those who are paid, so instead they’ve switched it to Saturday this once. Next year, she tells me, it’ll be back to the regular November 1st.

The theme of the Dia de los Muertos events this year is Mictlán, a tribute to pre-hispanic culture. The events in the Angela Peralta Theater will start at 7 pm, with aerial dance, concept art, poetry readings, singing, ballet—it’s an event not to be missed. Free tickets will be handed out in the Plaza Machado starting at 10 am Friday, though the official announcements say Saturday. Be sure to be there early or on time, as the free tickets run out quickly and are limited to two per person. The parade itself starts about 8:00 pm from the Plaza Machado; route map is above.

Please Share!

Many of you have made yourselves up for years, so you are experienced. Not sure if any of the above will give you a few pro tips or not. I would love to hear your favorite makeup techniques and tips; please also share a photo of yourself in your favorite catrina outfit. For our group, it was all new. Now we know to buy some good brushes, blending sponges, and sequins. So, watch out Mazatlán! Here come the catrinas!

Thank you, China!!!! Thank you, Johnny! We so appreciate your generosity and talent!