José Limón and La Malinche: The Dancer and the Dance

By Patricia Seed | Go to book overview

7. JOSÉ LIMÓN AND LA MALINCHE IN MEXICO
A Chicano Artist Returns Home

Margarita Tortajada Quiroz

Mexican artists began to embrace modern dance in 1939, following the arrival of two North American women: Waldeen (known only by her first name; 1913–1993) and Anna Sokolow (1919–2000).1 Waldeen, whose performances had been coolly received by New York dance critics, found Mexico’s ethnic variety entrancing. She soon began composing ethnically inspired dances, and she made the nation’s capital her home for the remainder of her life. Sokolow, initially a Martha Graham dancer, also embraced Mexico and began to travel there regularly to perform.

In 1947, a government fine arts initiative united followers of both artists in a single national group, creating the Academy of Mexican Dance. Guillermina Bravo, a Waldeen enthusiast who became one of the pillars of Mexican dance during the second half of the twentieth century, became director. Ana Mérida, the daughter of the painter Carlos Mérida and a supporter of Sokolow, became subdirector.

The two parts of this first company coexisted uneasily. While some members of the nascent company created abstract pieces, others looked to the nation’s indigenous peoples for inspiration. Waldeen’s followers, headed by Bravo, supported socially and politically committed dance, whereas Sokolow’s supporter Mérida favored a more formalist approach. In 1947, the socially oriented academy members started researching ethnic themes in Oaxaca’s Yalaltec sierra and along the Tehuantepec Isthmus coast. The first choreographic work created by this group enjoyed the support of numerous prominent artists; Diego Rivera introduced the ethnic-inspired choreographed dances to the press in November, and a month later the academy’s inaugural season began in the country’s most important venue, the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes). The debut performances represented a combination of abstract dance and Mexican themes.2

The initial fragile compromise between formalist and ethnically conscious dance did not survive the year. Director Bravo also became

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