Written by James Yabut, City Living Local Life
The first weekend of this year’s InTRANSIT Festival literally got off to a flying start with a visit from the Voladores de Papantla.
These Mexican bird men brought some much welcome colour and daring to a grey and drizzly Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance as they performed this ancient ritual in the UK for the first time.
The ceremony sees five dancers in traditional costume scale a 20-metre mast. At its apex the group’s captain plays a flute and drum, bowing in all four directions of the universe to begin an invocation dance to the sun god before the group spins back to earth on ropes.
The evening’s programme was put together by Border Crossings who specialise in international and multi-media theatre. Associate Director Lucy Dunkerley said: “I really hope that visitors felt they experienced something really special and unique, that they would not usually have the opportunity to see. It would be lovely if they also gained an understanding and admiration of indigenous cultures.”
Following the Mexican flying men was a rare performance of the Quechua Danza de Tijeras – Scissor Dance – by Peruvian artist José Navarro. The origins of the dance are unknown, and its performers have not always been welcome: the dancers’ acrobatic movements were once thought to be evidence of a sinister pact with the devil, and even today scissor dancers are forbidden to enter churches while in costume. Nowadays the dance is most often seen during Christmas, New Year and at festivals.
Other performers included Baila Peru who entertained the crowd with their Afro-Peruvian dance, and the London-based Mexican dance group Atlachinolli. The evening was rounded off with Oxlajuj B’aqtun by Mayan theatre troupe Grupo Sotz’il.
Local resident Cathy McEntaggart of Ladbroke Grove was at the event with her two grandsons, and thought the dances were “amazing”. Aidan, 9, said the Voladores were “excellent”, while younger brother Blaine, 8, thought they were “quite good”.
There are many more “quite good” events at InTRANSIT Festival today through Sunday 28 June. Check out our website for the full festival line-up.