Jarabe tapatio, an artful expression of the pursuit of romance

The jarabe Tapatío is a Mexican folk dance, often called the national dance of Mexico, and better known internationally as the Mexican hat dance of Mexico.

The music was composed by Jesús González Rubio during the revolution in the 1800s in an attempt to restore unity to the country and later, the piece was embellished by the choreography of Felipa Lopez. 

However, the Mexican hat dance became popular on a global scale after it was adopted into the performance repertoire of the famed Russian ballerina of the time during her 1919 tour to Mexico, Anna Pavlova, as the first classical ballerina to interpret the “Jarabe Tapatio” dance on pointe.

En point versión of Jarabe Tapatio.

One aspect that possibly aids the enduring popularity of  this traditional dance -aside from ballerina Anna Pavlova’s en pointe versión- is the distinctly Mexican clothing: the male dancer wears a charro suit and the female dancer a china poblana dress.

And the most important fact about Jarabe Tapatio: is courtship dance. 

The dance movements tell the love story of the charro and china poblana. By knowing the footwork and by paying close attention to the dance steps, the love story of the Jarabe Tapatío unfolds. 

Here, we share this love story as written by Alura Flores de Angeles “Godmother of Mexican Dance” (1905-2000) and documented by Folklorist Ron Houston: 

“There are eight steps, quite intricate ones. The first step represents the galloping of a horse. The charro, booted and spurred, is on his way to the china’s house. In the second step he rasps briskly at the door but it is not opened to him because the china is not in. In the third step the charro walks across the corral in order to take his horse from the stable, and on the way, in the fourth step, he meets the china poblana. She coquets with him, but keeps him at arms’ length. The fifth step shows the charro drunk-probably to drown his sorrow. He is unable to guide his horse straight as the sixth step indicates (Flores de Angeles 1934, 17). Fearing her father would see the charro drunk, the china poblana serves him hot tea to sober him up. They both perform the footwork sequence known as the hojas de té (Houston 2017, 50).

The china poblana is touched. She turns toward the charro and the two start to flirt again. The charro signifies that he is all hers by throwing his hat on the floor. The china in order to accept him takes the chic method of dancing on the broad brim of the hat (Flores de Angeles 39) or by either placing the hat on her head (Houston 2017, 51).

In the eighth and last step, both are hilariously merry and express their pleasure and happiness by dancing “La Diana” (Flores de Angeles 1934, 39).

[They] both hide behind the hat and kiss, as they are now engaged (Houston 2017, 51).

This, then, is the story of the Jarabe Tapatío, Mexico’s national dance, which …. is now known to all the world interested in dancing (Flores de Angeles 1934, 39).”

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