April 5, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Baile Cascarones

"...there is no better place to be and not much more fun to be had anywhere"

By Thor Sigstedt

Thor’s Hammer

Thor Sigstedt is an artist in wood, words, cameras, bronze, cast iron, glass, notes and steel; a homesteader from Spirit Valley specializing in forest diversity and “land ethics” and a dabbler in practical and non-practical non-zero new paradigm complexity in the multiverse.

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Now many people may not be aware of this, but there is a special dance in Santa Fe every year around Easter time.   The dance will be unlike anything the “uninitiated” may have ever seen; it is a throwback, of sorts, to the Spanish Colonial era of New Mexico and has many features that celebrate the music and dancing culture of old Santa Fe and New Mexico.  It is called “cascarones” because the first thing you will notice is that there are tables full of beautiful decorated Easter eggs that, upon closer inspection, reveal that they also have a specific purpose.  If you are at the dance and wish to dance with someone, you merely break the cascaron open by  wrapping your hand around it and squeezing and then rubbing your fingers against it and it will sprinkle out bits of confetti  that you can allow to adorn the head and hair of the object of your dance desire.

The  band  usually consists of an accordion and a fiddle and a mandolin and a guitar, at least.  The music is a wide variety of dance tunes which include waltzes (valse varsuviana (Varsuviana Waltz originally from Warsaw Poland and some people know as “Put Your Little Foot”); valse de la escoba (The “Broom Dance,” which is a little like musical chairs in the dance world) and there are also many “mixers” where you get a chance to dance with someone you might not have ever met before and then you say goodbye to them and dance with another “stranger” and it is a lovely way to have community. 

There are dances that the young children are encouraged to learn and try out as a way to encourage them to continue the traditions.  There is La Cuna (The Cradle) which only the initiated would know to begin with.  There is a three-person dance with two scarves.  There is the wildly popular “march,” which is a long serpentine affair with lots of  variations on the weave and serpentine movements of long lines of dancers and arches and tunnels.  There is the dance where you are randomly presented a tie or apron and you must go find the person with the same pattern and he or she becomes your compadre or commadre for the year. 

You might even catch a few more modern favorites like  “Volver” or “There’s No Tortillas…Only Bread”!  And there are bound to be some polkas.  There are little speeches and jokes told by the MC.  There are refreshments and, sometimes, food to buy. There are cascarones for sale if you did not bring your own, some that are collector’s items.

There are often past mayors and probably future mayors present; also viejitos and viejitas with big smiles and lovely manners, there are often celebrities from the media present. There are costumes and fiesta attire that are feast for the eyes.  There are the candidates for fiesta queen and their little speeches in the best Spanish they can conjure up.  There is the broom, herself, who is quite the celebrity, also and sends fear into your hearts (because you might have to dance with her!).

So, if getting along with the local people is your pleasure or dancing to new tunes and music or just getting a feel for Santa Fe, there is no better place to be and not much more fun to be had anywhere.

April 14 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and $15 a couple will get you there.

“Hasta La Vista”

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