Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh (review)
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Tonatiuh, Duncan Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México; written and illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, 2017 34p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4197-2532-6 $18.95
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-68335-110-8 $15.54 R Gr. 2-5

Amalia Hernández was expected to grow up to become a schoolteacher, but instead she became fascinated with the world of dance. Initially she studied classical ballet, but when modern dance spread to Mexico she became inspired; she expanded her remit again to study traditional dances across Mexico and incorporate them into her new choreography. Her attention to stagecraft as well as choreography made her company a natural for the young medium of television in the 1950s, where it was a huge success, and El Ballet Folklórico de México soon became an international phenomenon. The book does an excellent job of chronicling Hernández’s work as cultural explorer and celebrator of both pre-Columbian past and Mexican present; while it doesn’t spend time on personal description, it’s clear from her achievements as dancer, choreographer, company founder, tour director, and teacher what a powerhouse Hernández was. Tonatiuh’s signature stylized figures in side view and flattened perspective are surprisingly well suited to dancing; though there’s not a lot of focus on motion, the rhythmic compositions and streamlined details of costume and set design have an appropriately theatrical flair. This is a useful complement to other chronicles of twentieth-century dance such as Greenberg and Jordan’s Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring (BCCB 9/10) and it’s a rich introduction to an important figure less celebrated in the U.S. End matter includes a detailed author’s note, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index; there are no pointers toward YouTube, so make sure young readers take a look there to see the Ballet Folklórico in action.

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