The smell of copal incense fills the quad as dancers don their cultural wear. They are wearing bright and ornate traditional garb. As the dancers step into their space, the rattling of their ayoyotes announces their entry. Dancer Raymond Ramirez blows a conch horn and the drums beat to start the Danza Azteca performance. Students walking by cannot help but stop to see the occasion.
Danza Azteca is a traditional form of dance to honor Earth, elements, and connection. The HSU community turned out to learn and participate in the cultural event on Friday. The colorful and energetic performance helped to share culture on campus.
Milagros Ayoltzin, one of the dancers, began at the age of 6. Her 35 years of experience have helped to keep the culture alive. She began dancing in Los Angeles with one of the first Danza Azteca groups in the United States, Xipe Totec. She believes that it an important to bring culture to campuses.
“It’s very important to share your culture,” Ayoltzin said. “Expressing ourselves is so important because it keeps us rooted to who we are. I think it’s something that is being lost. But it can help you find yourself no matter where you are.”
HSU students can now learn about Danza Azteca on campus too. Salvador Hernadez is an HSU student who is currently in the Danza Azteca class. The class debuted this semester with an accompanying club.
“We learn about the dances, the four directions, the ceremonies, we have the alter, blessings, and how to drum,” Hernadez said. “It’s my culture. Growing up, I never got to learn this. It’s exciting seeing it now even though it’s so far away from home.”
Hernandez recommends the class or club which meet on Wednesdays 7-8 pm. He thinks of it as a family and as a space to heal from the stress of the day.
“It’s spiritual when you get in the classroom, and you hear the drums beating, and you feel one with the Earth and yourself. You go and dance and get all the stress out. It’s emotional, but it’s like I’m having a bad day lets go dance about it.”
Hernandez enjoyed watching the Fire Serpent dance as the dancers held fire to their skin. Dancers ask permission from the serpent to approach a flame. The Fire Serpent dance takes place as a ceremony every 52 years representing a reset. Dancer Juan Ruiz explained the personal meaning behind the dance after the event.
“We’re all going through some struggle, some battle, [this dance] is a reminder to capture, reset, and keep going,” Ruiz said. “It is a way of closing and ending a cycle. It’s connected to every one of us.”
Along with the performances on Friday and Saturday, dance, drumming, and copili feather workshops took place in the Jolly Green Commons throughout the weekend.