Silvia Lozano's Ballet Folclorico Nacional de Mexico presented a survey of regional Mexican music and dance that looked like dutiful business as usual Thursday at Ambassador Auditorium.
For Lozano's troupe, designated the official ethnic dance company by the Mexican government in 1977, business as usual meant attractive, respectful dancing. But throughout a geographically and historically broad overview of rich cultural traditions, the company generated very little excitement.
Works ranged from primitivist foot-stomping evocations of Aztec ceremonies to formally elegant Veracruz social dancing, from a strangely subdued Yaqui Indian deer dance to a sell-it-to-the-audience Jalisco fiesta.
Sadly, the dances often seemed too short and sectional to make much individual impact; and, though frequently linked in sequences, they rarely sustained or even quickened any dance impulse.
Lozano favored clear steps in simple formal patterns, emphasizing in that sense real folkloric roots. One could imagine everyday people, not necessarily dance professionals, in many of the works.
But that very simplicity took a toll on one's interest. Even at comparatively short duration, the dances could seem to go on too long (as did, for instance, the humorous "Dance of the Little Old Men" from Michoacan). And eventually, too, all the skirt-swirling and heel-stomping looked repetitive and blurred any perception of regional differences.
In addition to taped accompaniment, the troupe danced to live music mostly provided by a mariachi band; but so sour and out-of-tune were the violins that the experience was hardly a benefit. Fortunately, the Trio Jarocho (in the Veracruz sequence) provided an accurate, much-appreciated though short alternative.
General compensations could be found in the variety of colorful costumes and the accomplished level of dancing. But clearly something was missing when the audience gave its heartiest endorsements--with good reason--not to the dancers but to the relatively brief contributions by throaty vocalist Estela Gonzalez de la Rosa and, especially, to lariat virtuoso Lorenzo Agustin Escamilla, whose flashy tricks garnered almost nonstop applause.
The company will repeat the program at Ambassador Auditorium tonight at 8:30, and at 2 and 8 p.m. Sunday.