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Latin American dance

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Latin American dance, dance traditions of Mexico, indigenous (Amerindian), African, and European influences that have shifted throughout the region over time.

This article surveys selected genres of dance across the vast and diverse region of cultures (for further treatment, see communities.

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Some early dance history can be inferred from the archives and from what seem to be continuous practices. For example, Aztec round dance

Aztec round dance
Aztec round dance for Quetzalcóatl and Xolotl (a dog-headed god who is Quetzalcóatl's companion), detail from a facsimile Codex Borbonicus (folio 26), c. 1520; original in the Chamber of Deputies, Paris, France.
Courtesy of the Newberry Library, Chicago

The dances of the Aztec were precisely structured and executed. Priests trained young people in the movements of the ritual dances and organized the ceremonies into massive arrangements of dancers who moved in symbolic geometric patterns. Combat was a major theme that featured male dancers: weapons in hand, individuals or groups of dancers enacted struggles between gods or between military units such as eagle warriors and jaguar warriors. Dances could last more than a day to test the warrior-dancers’ endurance and commitment. In some ceremonies dancers moved in columns to represent revolving astral bodies in their annual and millennial circuits; in others they represented planters working in looping zurcos (furrows). In the integral to the functioning of the viceroyalties in austere 40-day period of medieval Spain. The dance was based on an older form of religious street theatre, Guatemalan dance-drama

Guatemalan dance-drama
Moros y cristianos dance-drama from Guatemala. The dancer depicting the Moor is on the right and the Christian on the left.
Photo Trends/Globe Photos

Blended rituals such as la danza de la conquista became part of colonial religious festivals. Theatrical enactments of the conquest, or farsas de guerra (“war farces”), played a prominent role in entertaining and enculturating colonial populations. In Mexico the entertainments became known as dialogue, and the commemorate ancient battles between opposing forces. Dances of aristocracy of the viceroyalties kept up with a succession of popular European dances. These included open-couple dances, in which couples generally did not touch—such as morality.

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