Whatever comes to mind when you think of Mexican folclor, Mexico de Colores is here to turn that on its head. The Mexico City-based, all-male dance group blends ballet folclor inspirations with queer themes, upending expectations for an art form that is typically danced by a woman and a man. Donning makeup and cross-dressing in the typical skirts and ballet folclorico costumes associated with each of Mexico’s states, the roughly 20-man group challenges accepted norms about what tradition looks like and who can be included.
Their performances are an effort to push back against the institutionalized homophobia that LGBTQ communities face every day in Mexico. While there have been some recent legal gains for the movement – last June, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled to changed the legal definition of marriage to encompass same-sex couples – anti-LGBTQ violence is still a problem in the predominantly Catholic nation.
Through their work in danza, Mexico de Colores are speaking out, engaging an online community, and spreading an empowering message – not to mention, they look fly as hell.
I caught up with the director of Mexico de Colores, Carlos Antunez, who is such a badass dancer that he happened to be in the U.S. travelling with another group. He is a trained choreographer in ballet folclor, and founded Mexico de Colores in 2011. Here, he let us in on the group’s beginnings, and what lies ahead.
Interview originally in Spanish, translated by author.
When and where did Mexico de Colores begin?
Four years ago, UNAM invited me to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia with a group of dancers, by creating a folclor piece with gay themes. The day of the show, different groups invited us to do 4 more events, which we weren’t really prepared for. We weren’t a company then, just a group of friends that got together. So that forced us to come up with a completely new concept and actually become a dance company. That was May 27th, 2011.
Describe a typical show by Mexico de Colores. What’s the energy, music and who is the audience? Do y’all like to get down?
Well that first night at the university the audience was primarily gay. But now, different audiences come to the shows. Audiences from the gay community, dance community and other inclusive organizations have invited us to events for other audiences and it’s been successful. During a show you will find lots of happiness, picardía, and lots of different characteristics of our culture. But also, our dances are a reflection of this reminder to the audience: we are here, and have always been a part of Mexico.
Speaking from your own experiences and the group’s experiences, how do you see culture and music confronting homophobia and machismo in Latin American countries?
In our case, we saw that art and dance seems to sensitize people, and makes it easier for people to see us as part of their community. Homophobia and machismo is so ingrained our Latin American countries. We found that maybe through this medium we can change people’s views in an entertaining and light way.
What’s in Mexico de Colores’ future?
We would love to bring our shows all over Mexico, despite the fact that we know many places still have homophobia. Of course, we’d love to go the U.S. and other countries to share the joy we have in our music and nuestra danza Mexicana.
Check out Mexico de Colores’ dance rehearsals on YouTube here.