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Reverencia (Reverence). Penachos Series is an installation composed of a traditional Mexican headpiece, a choreography, an action recorded on video, and live activation’s that re-signify a traditional dance called Danza de Los Quetzales.
Reverencia proposes a reinterpretation of the symbolic meaning of the movements of the Danza de Los Quetzales, as well as a translation of the symbolic elements of the “Penacho”.
After a collaboration with an artisan dedicated to making these garments, the artist decided to eliminate the bright colors and the festive movements of the dance to focus on the meaning of the duality of its symbolic terms. The result is a “Penacho” in black and white, and a new choreography concentrated in a pair of dancers and two movements: the reverence and the greeting to the four cardinal points. The reverence is the most significant movement of this dance when the dancers lean, they recognize themselves in their equality and celebrate the difference.
This dance is one of the few ceremonial dances that survived the evangelization crusade in Mesoamerica and is still danced in the Nahua-Totonaca region located between the Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz. Although today it is rarely performed for the public, the religious prohibition did not deprive it of its ritual character.
In the prehispanic cultures, colors have specific symbology’s, for this reason, the only tone that could not be omitted was the color red, which represents the blood and gives life to the “Penacho.”
This project also establishes a historical connection with how Mexican governments presented the image of Mexico in world fairs, constructing a national imaginary through the representation of traditional dances and “stylized” regional garments.
Reverencia was shown for the first time at The Armory Show’s 2019 Platform by curated by Sally Tallant, where the curatorial starting point was the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the New York World’s Fair of 1939.
In her new work, Penachos (2019), Tania Candiani works around the Danza de los Quetzales in an installation composed of video, objects and live activation. The dance of the Quetzales is one of the few ceremonial dances that has survived the evangelization crusade
in Mesoamerica and it is still performed in the Nahua- Totonaca region located between the Mexican states
of Puebla and Veracruz. Although nowadays it is often performed for public appreciation, the ecclesiastical prohibition did not manage to deprive it of its ritual character. The dancers honor the sun and ask for divine favors such as good weather, abundant harvest and health as the purpose of the dance is to benefit agricultural labor. The core of the dance is composed of greetings to the four winds protecting the farm-
ers from the elements in all directions. It is a solemn, organized dance evolving around parallel and cross- ing lines of movements of zapateados (a sort of tap dance), twists and reverences. The main movement of the dance is the when the dancers bow to each other, curving their bodies and their heads which carries the “penachos”, reverencing each other and the elements. These spectacular headdresses are thought to pre- date the Conquest, perhaps by hundreds of years. Their large and rounded shapes represent different symbologies through their colors and patterns.
In Candiani’s piece these symbols were suppressed trough an editing process by the artist to reach the very essential gesture of respect and reverence of the bow. Just like the gesture of bowing itself, Penachos, strives to reach a universal language of geometry – similar to what Candiani strived for through Huipiles and Manifestantes y Obreras.
Through the dance, not only the rounded shape of the headdress is present, but also the triangular negative space formed by the gap occupied by the dancers’ bod- ies and squared shapes that comes from the alignment of one or more headdresses. The piece proposes a rein- terpretation of the symbolic meaning of the movements of the dance based on reverences of gratitude and hopefulness – a movement that ties in with the concept for the 2019 edition of The Armory Show’s 2019 Platform.
According to Sally Tallant, curator of this edition of Plat- form that takes place parallel to the 80th anniversary of the 1939 New York World ́s Fair, “The New York World’s Fairs looked to a hopeful future in the face of rising global political uncertainty. Today, we are living in dark times: borders are closing; there is a growing refugee crisis; identity, internationalism and citizenship are in tur- moil”. With this in mind, Tallant took the title, “Worlds of Tomorrow”, from the 1939 edition for the 2019 Platform.
Candiani’s celebration of the Danza de los Quetzales tries to recuperate the hopeful representation of a possible future where life is exalted. As the artisan that worked on the black and white version of Candiani’s penachos told her: “I can make them in black and white, but I have to keep at least a red line. In the penachos, red is the blood and nothing is alive without a little blood”.