The Mexican Hat Dance

The increasingly popular Mexican hat dance provides viewers with a twirling collage of vitality and sparkle. The dance has captured the heart and soul of many including traditional music lovers in Mexico and around the world. And to this day, Jarabe Tapatío outshines most dances in history, courtship and choreography.

The Mexican hat dance or Jarabe Tapatío is a very prevalent dance that is often considered the Mexico’s national dance. One of the greatest reasons for its popularity is that it celebrates courtship.

Initially, the man invites his partner to the intimate dance. In the beginning, the woman rejects the man’s advances. As the dance warms up, the man continues to advance as his partner still rejects him. However, the man’s persistence eventually receives positive signals from his partner. This acceptance inspires exciting giddiness.

During the dance, the man places his sombrero on the ground. After much ado – kicking, hopping and sliding around the sombrero, his partner leans forward to pick up the hat. It is at this point that the man kicks his leg over his partners head.

Jarabe Tapatio Dancers

© Javier Castañón - Jarabe Tapatio Dancers

Of course, the choreography of Jarabe Tapatío is very pronounced. The performance relies on perfect timing and careful articulation. The closing of the performance is also done with great finesse. The grand finale of the dance has the female holding the hat up while both dancers’ faces hide behind the hat.

The closing is a suggestive interlude of the couple finally confirming a united romantic interest by sealing it with a kiss.

History

By today’s standards, the moves of the Mexican hat dance are considered quite innocent. In fact, the dancers don’t even touch one another. However, in the early 19th century, the colonial ruling class found the moves very sexually suggestive, which led to the Jarabe Tapatío being banned.

The banning of the dance inspired more of an appreciation and increased its popularity. More elements of rebel expression were also added to the dance. Many dancers found that the Mexican hat dance was a prime opportunity to make a statement that expressed freedom and political independence. In truth, the dance inspired subtle defiance towards the colonizers.

In 1821, the Mexican independence brought a fresh perspective of cultural awareness and, with a new sense of national identity, the popularity of the Jarabe Tapatío greatly expanded. Other forms of the Mexican hat dance appeared, such as Jarabe Moreliano, Jarabe de Jalisco and Jarabe de Atole. Another one of the most famous versions is the Tapatío that originated in Guadalajara.

 

Jarabe Tapatio

© Supaman89 - Jarabe Tapatio

 

During the Revolution, the dance's popularity declined a little until Jesús González Rubio (a Guadalajara music professor) composed a melody for the dance as a symbol of national unity. Rubio’s melody became the "national dance" of Mexico and gained wide popular recognition and in 1919, the Russian dancer Anna Pavlova added the Jarabe Tapatío permanently in her repertoire.

Until 1930, the Mexican hat dance remained in vogue, especially in Mexico City. Today, the Jarabe Tapatío is taught in nearly every grade school in Mexico.

Jarabe Tapatio Dancers, 1952

Jarabe Tapatio Dancers, Cinco de Mayo 1952

Clothing

The Mexican hat dance is well-known for its dancers' clothing. In truth, Jarabe Tapatío has become nationally and internationally renowned as a symbol of Mexican heritage. The China Poblana woman’s attire is a traditional style of dress in the Mexican Republic. The wide skirt and blouse is colorful and fully decorated.

Jarabe Tapatio Dress

© Jorge Gonzales - Jarabe Tapatio Dancer

The origin of the style and name of the skirt has invoked many legends. One folktale speaks of a stunning 17th century princess from India. The princess Mirra was kidnapped and shipped to Mexico to be sold as a slave. Nonetheless, Mira’s clothes were so vibrant and exotic that women copied the style which was then enhanced and adapted to popular indigenous tastes.

The men’s clothing consists of a black uniform with metal embroidery called a charro. The trousers are tightly cut and lined with buttons of silver that highlight the man’s stamp moves and flashy kick.

Jarabe Tapatio Dancers

© Sage Ross - Jarabe Tapatio Dancers

The Music

The music that is played with the Mexican hat dance may be performed by mariachi bands or similar string instrumental ensembles. Some of the instruments include a harp, guitars and the violin. The original song was compiled by Jesus Gonzalez Rubio in 1924. The melody escalates in tempo as the story line and a step of the dance intensifies and becomes stronger.

Jarabe Tapatío Facts

  • Jarabe Tapatío celebrates courtship.
  • The Mexican hat dance was a dance for the elite around the 1860s.
  • The dance stayed in vogue until about 1930, especially in Mexico City.
  • Jarabe is likely from the Arab word xarab which means "herb mixture".
  • The dance was banned shortly after a public performance at the Coliseo Theater in 1790 in Mexico City.
  • Jarabe Tapatío was banned by colonial and religious authorities - considered morally offensive and a challenge to Spain’s control over the territory.