Flying Dancers of Papantla

November 3rd, 2010

This week, Monterrey is celebrating Mexico’s 200 years of independence from Spain, and 100 years since the Mexican revolution. The city’s largest park, built in the grounds of the steel factory that was once her strongest company, is hosting a fair. I shot this video while I was there last Sunday.

Among the attractions are the dance of the “voladores”, or flyers, of Papantla, Veracruz. Totonac legend states that 450 years ago, the people devised this dance in response to a challenge from their gods to create a dance that would gain their attention during a drought. But there is archaeological evidence that the ceremony is actually much older, going back to pre-classical times, in the 6th to 9th centuries AD.

The ceremony involves 5 men, who climb a tall pole, which originally was cut down from the forest in another ceremony, but is now usually permanent. Four of the men climb a square platform at the top of the pole, and wind it clockwise with ropes. A fifth dancer remains in the center, playing the flute and drum simultaneously, while the others simultaneously let themselves fall backward and fly around the pole until it becomes completely unwound.

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