OMG! The hats! The costumes! The colours! I doubt if the London Coliseum has seen anything like it since the last visit by the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico 20 years ago. With a live mariachi band playing throughout, the huge troupe of dancers moves in beautiful unison through several forms of Mexican folk dance, recovered, restored and remodelled by the remarkable Amalia Hernandez, whose legacy is carried on by her daughters and grandson.
The stage is filled with swirling, vibrant colour as serried ranks of men and women dressed in fabulous costumes stamp and skip through a variety of sequences – from the explosive opening Los Matachines with men in huge flowered hats clattering wooden heels on the stage with military precision to the thunderous beats of four conga players to the show-stopping Dance of the Quetzales. The huge headdresses of the latter are based on the mythological quetzal bird and seem to float above the dancers’ heads.
The range is enormous; there is the Revolucion dance with girls in bandoliers and wielding rifles supporting their men in the fight for freedom in a Viva Maria-ish manner. There is a gentle, joyous waltz-like Danzon, the fiery Fiesta in Jalisco and the awesome mardi gras-like puppet heads of the Fiesta in Tlacotalpan. Many aspects of Mexican life are represented, from the fishermen trawling the stage with a huge net to the deer hunters pursuing their quarry with ritual respect. There is even a tap dance and a duel of harpists. Mexican harpists! Who knew?
The sheer joy bubbling on the stage is infectious and literally spills into the audience as the dancers take to the aisles and invite lucky spectators to dance with them. If you don’t come out with a big, fat smile on your face you are deaf, dumb and blind. In fact, you’re a dead person.