Music and dance are a big part of cultural identity in Mexican tradition. Among the most well known Mexican dances are the Jarabe Tapatio, or Mexican Hat Dance, and the Danza del Venado, Dance of the Deer, a ritual dance that is more difficult to master. Latin dances like the chacha and samba are also popular throughout Latin America and Mexico.
Mexican Hat Dance
The Mexican Hat Dance, or Jarabe Tapatio, is the official dance of Mexico. The dance is a symbol of pride in Mexican heritage and is even taught as part of the curriculum in Mexican public schools. Traditionally, the dance tells the story of love and courtship between a couple, but this dance can be performed alone or with a partner.
To perform the Mexican Hat Dance, stand with feet together and arms down by your sides. Kick your heel out three times, alternating feel each time; clap twice. Repeat this eight times until chorus. At chorus, link elbows with a partner and skip around in a circle. Circle once, and then circle the opposite direction. Repeat with a different partner throughout chorus.
The song that accompanies the Mexican Hat Dance, also called the "Jarabe Tapatio," begins slowly but speeds up greatly during the chorus.
In a traditional Mariachi dance, women wear long, layered skirts. Ladies often use the extra fabric of their skirts in dances. Young children should be able to pick up this dance step easily.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, grasping the skirt in either hand at knee length. March in place to the beat of the music. While marching, cross one arm in front of body, as if to throw the skirt. Do not actually release the skirt with your throw, however; repeat with the other arm. Students could also turn with each throw of the arm using a turning and spotting technique in which a student focuses on one spot while turning.
The main point of this dance is to play up the flowing nature of the skirt. Instead of marching, children could alternate kicking one leg out to the side while swishing their skirts. Movements should be quick and sharp.
Although the ChaCha originated in Cuba, it is a popular dance in Mexican culture. Children can easily master the basics of this classic Latin dance; it is also a great way to teach students to count beat.
For children who are just learning to count beats, it may be helpful to repeat this phrase while dancing, "One, two, cha-cha-cha." The basic dance move is two slow steps, followed by three quick steps. Start with feet shoulder width apart. Step forward with one foot, then rock back onto back foot on the "1-2" count. Then take three quick steps in place to the beat of the "cha-cha-cha" part of the phrase. Repeat these steps, but alternate and start with a different foot each time.
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.