Arab Today, arab today mexicans help keep cuban dance alive
Last Updated : GMT 23:12:04
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Mexicans help keep Cuban dance alive

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Mexicans help keep Cuban dance alive

London - AFP

Down through the centuries, a Cuban dance which harks back to the elegance of European royal courts has survived among Latin America's tropical, pulsating rhythms with help from fans in Mexico. The danzon, a slow-moving swing, arrived in Mexico at the end of the 19th century, two decades after emerging in Cuba, and took off in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, which has long been influenced by the Caribbean island. It later began to flourish in Mexico City with the arrival of Cuban musicians who filled dance halls in the l940s and l950s, providing welcome relief from the struggles of city life. While Danzon barely exists now in Cuba, Mexican fans still gather in parks in Veracruz, parts of the southeast and the capital, converting them into open air dance halls, as well as in yearly festivals across the country. Musical groups, known as danzoneras, play every weekend in La Ciudadela -- a tree-lined square in the center of Mexico City -- as couples gently step in time to their rhythm, with stiffly gracious movements. Danzon's main fans are older people who remember when it was still in fashion, enjoying both the music and a chance to get together with friends. Miguel and Silvia Salinas, who have been married for 36 years, dance every weekend. "Fortunately, danzon has given life to our generation -- a generation one might call forgotten. It has given us energy again," said Miguel, wearing a panama hat and flowery green shirt. Unlike other Cuban rhythms, the danzon is defined by delicate moves, with small steps that experts compare to "dancing on a brick." The steps begin slowly to a three-beat rhythm; the dancers then stop, receiving applause as the women fan themselves; the dance then picks up as the music gathers pace and the dancers elegantly perform more complicated steps. For many older people, often neglected by family and with little money to spare, danzon gives them an opportunity to go out into their communities and socialize. "Danzon doesn't demand sudden movements or much physical activity, which makes it ideal for the older adult population," said seasoned dancer Rosalinda Aceituno Rios, wearing a black sequined shirt. The dance had a second revival in the 1990s, when a movie, "Danzon," was released telling the tale of a phone operator in Mexico City who lives for her job, her daughter and the danzon. Interest has also grown among younger generations who often enjoy the competitive performance -- this year's local champions are a pair of teenage siblings. "Some youngsters have found peace through danzon, I think, and have reclaimed the feeling of being close to their partner, because today's dances are a bunch of youngsters with their hands in their pockets, moving their heads around," said Felix Renteria, who has taught danzon for more than 20 years. They have also inspired older generations to invent new steps. "Young people have given it a different, fresher mark," said Xochitl Renteria, his wife and dance partner.

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