Tag Archives: Dance of the Feather

2014 Dance of the Feather Schedule: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Today, Monday, July 7, the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle begins its weeklong fiesta to celebrate its Catholic Church of the Precious Blood with a calenda de las canastas — the parade of the canastas.  This starts in the church courtyard today around 6:00 p.m. Oaxaca time.  Which means, it starts at 5 p.m. in Teotitlan del Valle because here, time never changes!

Times are never exact either. So, I suggest if you come today, you arrive around 5 p.m. and go into the inner church courtyard to watch the young women assemble with their elaborate baskets that they will carry on their heads in a procession throughout the village.  The baskets are adorned with flowers and religious images.  The women, who must be unmarried to participate, wear extraordinary traditional traje or dress that is indicative of this particular village.

Tuesday, July 8, at 8 p.m. there will be the introduction of this year’s Danzantes — the dancers who have made the three year commitment to participate in this ancient pre-Hispanic rite — in the church courtyard.  They will dance a short program and then this will be  followed by a festive fireworks display.

Wednesday, July 9, at 1 p.m, the Danza de la Pluma will begin in the church courtyard.  The dancers will demonstrate their prowess for the next 10 hours, taking intermittent breaks.

About the Dance of the Feather

Cultural History–Dance of the Feather

Video Interview–Dance of the Feather

Thursday, July 10, is a day of rest.

Friday, July 11, 4 p.m. Dancers process around the village

Saturday, July 12, 1 p.m. Dancers will be in the church courtyard until about 10 p.m.

Sunday, July 13, 1 p.m. is the last day of the fiesta and the dancers will be in the church courtyard all day.

There is lots of food and drink, and there is a fair with rides and sideshows to also entice you to visit.  Have a good time!

 

 

Oaxaca Photography Workshop Tour: Dance of the Feather, Festival & Traditions

Come to Oaxaca, explore indigenous culture, cuisine and traditions, and use your digital SLR camera to capture, record and document it all, including the amazing Dance of the Feather — Danza de la Pluma,   This is cultural immersion at its best!

July 5-13, 2014 — 8 nights, 9 days

The annual Dance of the Feather takes place in Teotitlan del Valle in July.  It is an ancient pre-Hispanic ritual rooted in Zapotec tradition.   Adapted and changed by the Spanish conquerors  to pay homage to the church, dancers today interpret the story of Cortes and the Spanish conquest of Moctezuma and Mexico.  They dance in full regalia for up to ten hours a day for several days before an audience of villagers and visitors.  They do not consider this a performance!  It is a sacred honor to dance — a commitment to church and community.  Two young women are part of the group, representing the duality of Mexican women:  La Malinche and Doña Marina.  You will see it all, along with the Parade of the Canastas and other related festivities.

Beginners to intermediate level photographers welcome.

Each day, we will meet in a morning learning session,  then go out “on location” to practice what you’ve learned.  You need little or no experience with a digital camera to take part.   What you do need is a willingness and desire to immerse yourself in the experience, and be open to exploring new ways of seeing the world.

  

You will join art photographers Tom and Sam Robbins, our husband-wife team from Columbus, Ohio, who guide our expedition.  The Robbins’ are versatile, experienced teachers and coaches whose work appears in national photography magazines.

    

Throughout the week, we give you access to private homes and artist studios to enrich and personalize your photographic experience.

  

You will take a cooking class (included) to learn more about regional indigenous foods and their preparation, plus have a tasty dining experience including the famed mole sauce and mezcal if you wish.  Photography welcomed!

The cooking class was great and it provided wonderful photo opportunities. The instructors are exceptional, and there are endless picture subjects here. I also learned the different functions of my digital camera. -Kellie Fitzgerald

  

We’ll roam the huge regional Tlacolula market where vendors sell everything from live turkeys, handmade chocolate, woven hammocks, and the kitchen sink.   On market days, people come from remote mountain villages to buy and sell dressed in traditional indigenous clothing–a feast for the photographer’s eye.

  

We’ll also visit a local archeological site where corn was first cultivated over 8,000 years ago before it spread around the world.

Most valuable for me was learning how to use the manual controls of my camera, learning about depth of field and the macro settings.  Norma’s community connections provided unusual access to artisans. –Dan O’Brien

Topics Covered:

  • Using manual camera settings
  • Understanding composition
  • Capturing light, shadow and reflection
  • Knowing more about aperture and shutter speed
  • Experimenting with black and white, and sepia
  • Exploring the essentials of landscape and portraiture
  • Using Lightroom photo editing software
  • Getting feedback for steady improvement

During the workshop, you will review each other’s work and give each other supportive feedback, with expert guidance and coaching from Tom and Sam. A group presentation at the end of the week will give you an opportunity to showcase your best work and select a theme, if you choose.

  

This is a walking expedition!  Instruction will include both formal group discussion and a learn-as-you-go organic, flexible format.

  

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change)

Day One,  Saturday, July 5:  Teotitlan del Valle.   This is your travel day. Arrive and settle in to our village bed and breakfast. (Light supper)

Day Two, Sunday, July 6:  Breakfast and learning session. Explore the regional tianguis (outdoor) Tlacolula market. Group lunch at the market.   Afternoon on your own. Early evening “Best of the Day” show and tell.  Group dinner. (B,L,D)

Day Three, Monday, July 7: Breakfast, cooking class, lunch.  Afternoon on your own.  Group dinner.  (B, L, D)

Day Four, Tuesday, July 8:  Breakfast, learning session, best of day presentation.  Lunch on your own. Visit homes where young women prepare for the procession of the baskets. Meet in the church square and join the village procession. Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Five, Wednesday, July 9:  Breakfast, learning session, best of day presentation. Lunch on your own.  Dance of the Feather begins. Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Six, Thursday, July 10:  Breakfast, learning session. visit Yagul archeological site.  Dance of the Feather continues into the evening.  Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Seven, Friday, July 11:  Breakfast.  Travel to Oaxaca city.  Afternoon on your own. Early evening learning session and best of day show. Overnight in Oaxaca. Lunch and dinner on your own. (B)

Day Eight, Saturday, July 12:  Breakfast, learning session, Oaxaca street photography. Lunch on your own.  Gala group dinner and best of week presentation.  Overnight in Oaxaca.  (B, D)

Day Nine, Sunday, July 13:  Depart. 

Optional Additional Days:  We are happy to pre-arrange lodging for you to come early and/or stay later in either Teotitlan del Valle or Oaxaca city.  See the registration form and prices for this option.

About Husband and Wife Photographers Tom and Sam Robbins, Your Expedition Guides and Workshop Leaders

Tom Robbins, a photographer for more than 40 years, retired as professor of architecture at Columbus (Ohio) State Community College.  His careers in architecture and education have deepened his love for, and understanding of design, composition and visual impact.  Tom and his wife, Sam, have exhibited widely and their work is published in “Black and White Magazine.”  In the last five years, Tom and Sam have made Mexico the primary subject of their photography and have visited Oaxaca and the surrounding villages many times.

A serious photographer for over 20 years, Sam Robbins calls herself a “photographic hunter.”  Like her husband, Tom, she is most comfortable walking and wandering with her camera at the ready. While she has done studio portrait work, she is happiest allowing photographs to present themselves.  Before retirement, Sam taught art, English and photography.  Sharing her passion for photography with others is one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.  Though most of her work has been with a 35 mm SLR, she also has shot with medium format and really enjoys using a plastic, toy camera.  Recently, Sam taught and exhibited at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, where English and Spanish-speaking participants applauded her thoughtful, supportive style.  See their work at   www.robbinsx2.com

  

Dance of the Feather, Danza de la Pluma

What You Should Bring

1)     Your energy and enthusiasm

2)     Digital SLR camera

3)     Laptop computer

4)     Lightroom on your computer ready for photo editing

5)     Batteries and battery charger

6)     Memory card(s) and card reader

7)     Pen and notepad

8)    Memory stick/jump drive

Plus, sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat

(Upon registration, you will receive a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list and other useful information.)

Lodging/Accommodations are basic, clean and simple in the village.  In Oaxaca city we will stay at a well-known, highly rated bed and breakfast.

Cost:  The base cost for the trip is $1,795.00 USD.  This is for a shared room and shared bath.  Add on $300 per person for single room and private bath.

What the Workshop Includes

  • 8 nights lodging double occupancy
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 2 lunches
  • 7 dinners
  • Cooking class with famed local chef
  • Transportation to market towns
  • Transportation and admission to archeological sites
  • All instruction

It does NOT include airfare, taxes,  gratuities, travel insurance, liquor and alcoholic beverages, some meals and some transportation.

Costs, Reservations,  and Cancellations

A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by May 1, 2014.  We request Payment with PayPal.  When you email us and tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a PayPal  invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After May 1, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  If you cancel before May 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register or for questions, contact:  normahawthorne@mac.com

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  For more information, see:  http://oaxacaculture.com

Santa Ana, California Zapotecs Return Home: Dance of the Feather — Danza de la Pluma

They were born or raised in Santa Ana, California, which they call Santana. They keep sacred Zapotec traditions alive by practicing life cycle events from their Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca homeland.

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Most especially, these young men know what it means to be a Danzante — a dancer.  The Dance of the Feather or Danza de la Pluma is a ritual rite of passage.  To become a dancer is to make a commitment to the principles and traditions of Zapotec life.   The Danza de la Pluma is practiced with as much passion, integrity, endurance and intention in Santa Ana as it is in Teotitlan del Valle.  It is not a folkloric performance.  It is a serious part of Zapotec identity.

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That’s why a group of young men from Santa Ana, fluent in English, Spanish and Zapotec, asked permission from the village leaders to return to Teotitlan del Valle and make the three-year commitment and live here for the duration.

Their group debut was in the early July 2013 festival to honor the patron saint and church of Teotitlan — Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  The choreography is different, the finely woven intricately designed tapestry that each dancer wears on his back was either made by the dancer or a father, uncle or grandfather.

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They leap, twist, kneel, and it looks as if they are flying, as if God is carrying each one somewhere deep into the pre-Hispanic past to bring forth the spirit of the ancients.

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Many brought their wives and young children with them.  Some were reunited with family members — sisters, brothers, grandparents — after years of separation.  Some have never seen their abuelos — grandparents — since they were infants or if they were born in the USA, perhaps never before.

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It was a thrill to watch this group whose spirit infected the entire audience– villagers and about 150 guests of Aeromexico, the Mexican airline that offers several flights a day between Mexico City and Oaxaca.   Tourism is the economic engine for Oaxaca and the weavers of Teotitlan del Valle depend upon visitors for their livelihood.

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The Dance of the Feather is iconic.  It is a history retold from generation to generation of the 1521 Spanish conquest, Cortes and Moctezuma, and the dual figure of La Malinche and Doña Marina. There are few stronger images to convey a sense of place and culture.

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Both before and after, I talked to many of the dancers who said they love it here so much, they are wanting to stay on after their three-year promise ends.

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After the festivities came to a close, many of the guests walked out of the church courtyard to the adjacent community museum and rug market.  Just in time for a refreshment break, a bicycle vendor selling nieves — a Spanish word that means snow but what all of us know as delicious fresh fruit ices that Mexico is famous for!  (Try the tuna — nopal cactus fruit.) Or, if you want something more substantial, there are homemade tamales in that wheelbarrow.

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Dance of the Feather Grand Finale and Rain

I’m finally settled into Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, after a whirlwind two days in Mexico City and a six-hour bus ride south.  It’s raining here and has done so for days. Evenings are chilly enough for a blanket. The afternoon sky is filled with dramatic shades of gray cumulus clouds punctuated with intermittent sunlight. The river is flowing, the land is green, and the Dance of the Feather just ended, an annual village ritual celebrated since before the Spanish conquest and adapted with a new story line.  Rain or shine, the dance continues.

This year the Danzantes (the dancers), who were born in Teotitlan del Valle, but have lived in California since they were young, returned as a group to make their three-year commitment to honor their Zapotec heritage.

Read Meagan and Ben’s blog post about Dance of the Feather and their experiences at the public health clinic!

Ben Cook and Meagan Parsons, the two physician assistant students who are volunteering this month at the Teotitlan del Valle public health clinic, immersed themselves in the culture of the Dance of the Feather.  They wrote a post about it on their blog, Ben and Meagan’s Teotitlan del Valle adventures 2013, and included lots of photos to give you a sense of what it’s like to be here.

Plus, there’s some great pictures of the always alluring Sunday Tlacolula market, which they went to with Deborah Morris, MD, PA-C, their academic coordinator.

Today, Debbie and I got together in the courtyard, dodging drizzle and hiding from the sun, to make felted wool cloth which we cut and sewed into flower pins. We arrived at Las Granadas B&B in time for a simple dinner of quesadillas, brown rice, and black beans topped with Magdalena’s amazing smokey salsa de chile pasillo, just as the rain clouds opened up with a deluge at six thirty this evening. The lightening display was dramatic.  Thunder still roars.

Here’s a shot Debbie took of the rain coming over the mountains from the village of Benito Juarez.

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One of the most popular Teotitlan del Valle rug patterns is called Mountains and Rain!  We know why.

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Cultural Dialogs: Dance of the Feather in Teotitlan del Valle

On Wednesday night this week, the San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center hosted the first in a series of community dialogs about indigenous life in Oaxaca.   The restored chapel was filled to standing room only with Teotitecos and friends who came to hear a panel discussion introducing the new book, La Danza de la Pluma en Teotitlån del Valle written by Jorge Hernandez-Diaz, a cultural anthropologist at the state Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca.

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In addition to Professor Hernandez-Diaz, panelists included Uriel Santiago, one of the 2007-2009 group of dancers who made a promise and commitment to God, their church, community and culture by learning and performing this ancient tradition for a period of three years.   Uriel first welcomed guests in Zapotec then moved into Spanish.  Years ago Uriel explained to me that the Dance of the Feather is not a folkloric event designed to entertain people.  It is a serious expression of Zapotec identity and cultural continuity.  We made a documentary film about his experience in 2008 which you can see on YouTube.

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The book, published in Spanish by the Oaxaca Secretary of Culture and Arts, with support from the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation and the Office of the Governor of Oaxaca, offers three possible explanations about the origins of the dance, how it is interpreted in Teotitlan del Valle, other Oaxaca villages where the dance is an integral part of annual celebration, the rituals and traditions associated with the dance, and how the dance is organized and who can participate, plus lots more.  The professor explains in his book that the dance is expressed with variations in many Mexican states, too.

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Each year in Teotitlan del Valle beginning in early July and lasting for about a week, the Dance of the Feather is performed in the church courtyard.  Every three years the group changes and is organized/trained by a different leader.  The 2007-2009 maestro was Don Antonio Ruiz.  The book recognizes all the members of this particular group by name and the role they danced–Moctezuma, the indigenous kings who succumbed to the conquest, and Malinche/Doña Marina.

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Some of the group members are cousins.  Since the time of the dance, many of them have married and had children.  They have become doctors, educators and skilled weavers.  They remain close, committed to each other and their community, treasuring the time they devoted to transmitting their cultural heritage and ensuring continuity.

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