7 junio, 2024

The 6 Most Famous Dances and Typical Dances of Oaxaca

The dances and typical dances of Oaxaca They have their roots in indigenous traditions prior to the arrival of the Spanish. To these were added European elements, Catholicism and blacks who participated in the historical events of the region.

Oaxaca is one of the 32 states that make up Mexico. It is the state that is home to the greatest ethnic and linguistic diversity. More than sixteen ethnic groups live together, among them the Mixtecs, Zapotecs and Afro-Mexicans.

This multicultural composition makes music and dance closely linked to the folkloric heritage of the state. Some of the most important typical dances in the area are the dance of the feather, the dance of the masks, the dance of the badgers, the dance of the devils and the chilenas.

The main typical dances of Oaxaca

1- the feather dance

It is the best known of the Mexican conquest dances thanks to its vitality, diffusion and characteristic choreography.

The dancers jump to the rhythm of the music. Thanks to the feathers they wear in their clothing, they visually resemble birds with beautiful plumage. The choreographic steps are similar to other indigenous dances of Oaxaca.

On the one hand, a group of dancers represents the indigenous people, led by Moctezuma.

They dress in a loose-fitting shirt, white breeches with various stripes of different colors, a cape with embroidered drawings, and they wear brightly colored feathers on their heads. They hold a wooden scepter and some rattles with which they synchronize the rhythm of the music and the movement of the steps.

On the other hand, there is the side of the Spanish soldiers, led by Hernán Cortés.

The clothing is dark blue jacket and pants, with swords at the waist. Cortés wears a band across his chest and a crucifix in his hand.

Currently the intervention of this group is purely decorative. By giving more importance to pure dance, dialogue tends to be suppressed. The development of the function is usually completed in two or three days.

2- dance of the little masks

This dance comprises choreographies of at least eight pairs of men and women, and the performance is performed with masks.

The man dresses in a jacket and machete, and the woman wears a shawl. During the dance the main couple performs their movements around the others.

The peculiarity is that originally all the characters were played only by men.

The dance is set to music with various instruments such as the violin, harmonica, banjo, guitar, drums, saxophone, trombone and trumpet.

It is usually performed at carnival festivities and at the traditional patron saint festivities of Santa María Huazolotitlán.

3- badger dance

In this dance, the dancers cover themselves with masks and dresses made of brass sheets that imitate gold. They face other characters, generally the tiger, the cow, the dog and Maria, woman of the badgers. They dress in worn clothes and rooster feathers on their heads.

The badger dancers are reaching the center of the town while the public makes a circle around them.

The dancers make jokes and comments to the public, which in turn responds and encourages the game even more.

The badgers carry rattles, shotguns, a machete, a pistol, and a lasso. This dance is represented mainly at carnival time.

4- dance of the devils

The dance of the devils arose in colonial times, when the labor of black slaves was used. This dance was a ritual dedicated to the black god Ruja, in which the dancers asked him to help them free themselves from the harsh working conditions.

Nowadays the dance venerates the dead, for which reason it is danced on November 1 and 2, the days of all saints and the faithful departed.

The dancers dress as devils and are accompanied by their boss and the minga (street woman). They wear worn and torn clothes, and wooden masks with horsehair and ponytails that simulate beards.

The dance is fast and violent. Sometimes the dancers squat down and then suddenly stop and squat down again. Turns are made and stomping is done vigorously to the rhythm of the music.

5- The Chileans

This dance genre differs from the other dances, since it has great influences from the black and indigenous groups of the region. It is a mixed dance.

The style of music changes considerably from town to town. As for the dance, each place has its local characteristic.

Some dance with a handkerchief and others do not; some do the turn to one side, while others do it to the opposite; there are dancers who stomp hard and others softly.

The dance is accompanied by Chilean music played on the violin, guitar, cajón and harp.

6- the zandunga

Folkloric dance from Oaxaca in which men and women dance to the sound of a tune. In Guelaguetza, a famous festival in Oaxaca de Juárez, it is traditional for exhibitions of this dance to be made. The stomping is the main step, as well as the dance as a couple in the form of a waltz.


Stanford, T. (1963, March). Data on the music and dances of Jamiltepec, Oaxaca. In Annals of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (Vol. 6, No. 15, pp. 187-200).
Oseguera, A. (2001). Myth and dance between the Huaves and the Chontales of Oaxaca. The fight between lightning and serpent. Anthropological Dimension, 21, 85-111.
Oleszkiewicz, M. (1997). The dance of the feather and cultural syncretism in Mexico. Latin American literary criticism magazine, 23(46), 105-114.
Martin, DEB (1991). A Mexican family of conquest dances. Gazette of Anthropology, 8.

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