Behind the Look of Día de los Muertos

While Halloween might be over, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) still gives you a reason to celebrate. The Mexican holiday is a three-day event (which began yesterday) of gathering with friends and family to honor the dead with offerings. Though it originated in Mexico, the holiday has spread throughout Latin America and to Hispanic communities worldwide, with a variety of celebrations incorporating music, dance, candlelight processions, kite-flying, and more.

Ballet Hispanico is excited to present a world premiere by Mexican choreographer Edgar Zendejas, Umbral, inspired by Día de los Muertos and showing at the Apollo Theater on November 23rd. The dance is a seductive reimagining of the holiday and the atmosphere it evokes. A key figure of the holiday is the character of Catrina, the traditionally feminine representation of death who wears a distinctive face, which has become increasingly popular around Halloween–even trending as the “Mexican Skull Candy” look amongst celebrities and fans.  For Umbral, Zendejas chose to cast dancer Mario Ismael Espinoza as Catrina, adding an intriguing spin to what is sure to be an exceptional piece.

“It is a mythical being that inspires fear, but also joy and celebration of people’s lives.”

Mario worked with Zendejas to perfect the makeup for Catrina, which the dancer will be sporting on stage. Here’s how they put it together, with commentary from Mario about the process:

When Edgar was creating the work, he made it very clear that Catrina is a very solitaire character. Catrina has no age or gender. It is an androgynous personality.

When Edgar was creating the work, he made it very clear that Catrina is a very solitary character. Catrina has no age or gender. It is an androgynous personality.

Throughout the dance, I have several fleeting connections with the dancers, but ultimately end up alone.

Throughout the dance, I have several fleeting connections with the dancers, but ultimately end up alone.

For me, Catrina is a very special character to play, partly because I am Mexican and the face of Catarina is very iconic to me.

For me, Catrina is a very special character to play, partly because I am Mexican and the face of Catrina is very iconic to me.

It is a mythical being that inspires fear, but also joy and celebration of people's lives.  Death is part of life, and Catrina is the punctuation mark at the end.

It is a mythical being that inspires fear, but also joy and celebration of people’s lives. Death is part of life, and Catrina is the punctuation mark at the end.

Whenever I think of the Catrina, I think of a dancing marionette with a colorfully painted face, in a beautiful dress. In Umbral I get to give life to Catrina, with Edgar's choreography, Catrina gets to dance without strings.

Whenever I think of the Catrina, I think of a dancing marionette with a colorfully painted face, in a beautiful dress. In Umbral I get to give life to Catrina. With Edgar’s choreography, Catrina gets to dance without strings.

We can’t wait to see this on stage–be sure to join us at the Apollo to see it live!

Photos by company dancer Johan Rivera.

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