By Alberto Muro
During the first two days of November, Hispanic cultures partake in the largest celebration that symbolizes a reflection of their deceased loved ones. Dia De Los Muertos is a celebration that honors their gone relatives. Friends and families erect shrines of their deceased and bring belongings that reflects on their past life. Dia De Los Muertos also shares a religious following from the Catholic Church as alters are also aligned with rosaries and scriptures from the Bible.
The events that occur during Dia De Los Muertos are live music, Baile Folclorico de Mexico (Mexican Ballet), face painting, and sugar skull decorations. On the evening of November 2nd the 24th annual Dia De Los Muertos Expo was held at the Druids of Bakersfield hall. The host of the event was Cruz Ramos who also happens to be the dancing instructor. She welcomed everyone to the Dia De Los Muertos event and introduced the first performers.
The first performance consisted of a person representing St. Michael the Archangel and a group of youthful dancers dressed in skeletal clothing. The skeletal dancers positioned themselves on the floor, and the performance began with St. Michael walking in between the dancers blowing his horn. Next, the dancers awake as if they have been startled from the grave. Now the center of the room has skeletons dancing around and gaining the applause from the audience. The dance routine symbolizes the dead trying to reconnect with the living.
Upon the completion of the skeleton dance, The Marcos-Reyes-Band began playing music during the intermission which inspired audience members to get up and dance. The environment was lively for an event honoring the dead. Often, we use the time to honor our deceased by mourning; instead Dia De Los Muertos is a celebration of life through unification.
The next group of dancers were Muriel Ramos’ students from Mount Vernon Elementary School. The dancers wore the traditional face paint with symbols reflecting their deceased loved ones. The audience began clapping with the stomping rhythm of the dancers which could be heard through out the dance hall. Showing resilience towards fatigue, the little dancers kicked, spun, and kept the rhythm till the end. Impressed and astonished by the dancers, the audience could not resist blowing the roof off the venue with cheers and applause. Once the dancers finished, they bowed and made their exit.
The Marcos-Reyes-Band briefly played more music until the next set of dancers was ready to perform. After the band played their last song, the female dancers got into formation and began their routine. Similar to the Mt Vernon Elementary dancers, the females painted half their faces with detailed drawings. The attention of the audience focused more on the bright red dresses that the women wore which was accompanied by a swinging dance routine. The lack of applause did not symbolize a staggering performance; instead the audience was caught in a trance by the visual aspect of the moving dresses. Once the dancers were finished, they bowed and were met with applause.
Once the female dancers cleared the area, the next set of dancers approached wearing old men masks, hats, and ponchos and carryingwooden canes. It was not the local retirement home coming to dance but instead a youthful group of dancers ready to prove that old men can dance. The dance was called “Los Viejitos” (The Old Men) and the concept of the dance is the old men are expressing their discomfort around the idea of death. One dancer collapsed to the floor as the old men kept on walking. But to our surprise, the skeleton dancers came back for an encore to help the old man up. The old man was thankful for the fact that death lent him a hand. Now friends with the skeletons, the old man returned to his group, and to his surprise, they all fainted. Laughter could be heard from the audience followed by applause as the skeletons assisted the old man with dragging his friends off stage.
The final dance involved an illuminated hula hoop enthusiast that represented a free spirit in a red dress as she pranced around a dark room. Multiple colors irradiated as the dancer spun her hoop faster and leaped great distances around the dance floor. Unfamiliar with what the audience was spectating, a dark room cheered as the dancer paused and sprung back into action. Unlike the other performances, the hula hoop routine consisted of one individual, and they delivered an entertaining aspect that Dia De Los Muertos taps into–the creativity of people to express themselves for the ones they miss.