Considered the national dance of Cuba, danzón, a fusion of European Rhythms and Criollo, It struggles to get rid of the “old folks” label to reach young people following the steps of Mexico, which has adopted, enriched and treated it as. “his Majesty”.
“If Mexico did not adopt this dance as an important manifestation of it’s popular culture, it would surely have disappeared,” Miguel Zamudio, director of the National Center for Research and Dissemination of the Danzón, based in the Mexican port of Veracruz, in the east, told CTN News.
Derived from the French contradanza, it rose in popularity on January 1, 1879, when a Cuban musician named Miguel Failde presented it at a high school withing Matanzas.
The danzón is characterized by a rhythm that is repeated and in which the dancers rest, converse, the women fan themselves coquettishly or, in the Cuban style, they walk arm in arm. The final part, the happiest, is the montuno.
The myth exposed
“There are myths about resting: if it is actually to make the couple fall in love, back in Cuba they used it to pass on information about the revolution,” Zamudio explains.
It is danced with the body erect, in open or closed position, and the bars or beats are of mathematical precision.
In the central square of Veracruz, four afternoons per week there is danzón dancing with live music from a “danzonera”, as the orchestras are called.
Among the dancers is Carolina Salinas, a 26-year-old who dances from the university.
She wears a lace dress in ocher tones and silver slippers. Her hair and makeup look impeccable while fanning herself delicately.
“In this dance style, they teach you that image and posture are important for both the lady and the gentleman. Elegance, that’s the secret of this dance, “he summed up.
As soon as he was born, the danzón crave arrived in Mexico through Yucatan (east), went to Veracruz and from there to the capital, from where the whole country was already infected by films shot in the 1940 s.
Mexican composers have fed mythical pieces of the repertoire of “his majesty, the danzón”, as they venerate it, and reach classical levels under the baton of maestro Arturo Márquez, whose Danzón N ° 2 has been interpreted by internationally renowned philharmonics.
“In Veracruz there is a similarity with the way of interpreting and dancing as in Cuba, while in Mexico City the danzón has had an evolution, because it has been exposed to other genres,” says Zamudio, evoking the almost acrobatic steps of couples.
In Cuba, Ethiel Fernández Failde, a 25-year-old musician and great-great-grandson of the father of the danzón, seeks to re-launch it with his danzonera and promoting an international festival in Matanzas, in the northwest.
Fernández Failde does not believe that the danzón is in the dog house in Cuba, but he concedes that it is necessary to “revitalize” it, to give it more space, to create more danzoneras and to spread it among the young, lovers of reggae-ton.
“Danzón is danced every day in Mexico, there is a new youth movement evolving
They really respect him a lot, “explains the musician. “The danzoneras only play danzón and within their repertoires they can reach hundreds. In Cuba we do not have that possibility, there are no dance halls anymore. “
Oscar Peñader arrives looking impeccable in a suit and tie to the rock of Arroyo Naranjo, in the south of Havana and where there is dancing two Sundays a month.
“El Profe”, 92, is the dean of the dancers, but he regrets that they play a handful of danzones in a sea of guarachas and sauces.
The love of danzón “has gone down a lot, but I say so. If they do not update it more, (it will be) very poor. People are not only talking about it, but executing it in societies. And orchestras have started play the danzón real well, “he says.
Peñader walks with a cane, but his body revives with the danzón
“You don’t see that I dance without the cane? Thats because this kind of music takes me, I feel it in my soul, in my bones, “he exclaims.
Sometimes, love and danzón go hand in hand. Many couples met dancing this genre and others have fallen in love again.
Cubans Lázara Genes, 74, and Claudio Hernández, 73, met at the club 15 years ago as widowers.
He taught her to dance and they matched so well that they have even won festivals. “We started to fall in love, very discreetly,” says Lázara.
Jesús Escobedo and María Isabel Cruz are 46 years old. They thought of separating until they became fond of the danzón in Veracruz.
“We were already lost,” says Maria Isabel. “With danzón we have rediscovered ourselves”.
“We are like newlyweds”, adds Jesus, who says he invented the romantic step “the kiss and the caress”.