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Dance group will share heritage, teach steps at 2 p.m. Saturday

TIMES FILE PHOTO - A member of the Ritual Azteca Huitzilopochtli dance group performs during the 2016 Party in the Park at the Howard M. Terpenning Recreation Center in Beaverton.Through Aztec dancing, Kelly Carlos teaches her children appreciation for the natural world.

“We wake up in the morning every day and we see the sun and we breathe in clean air and we drink water, but just take it for granted in our modern society,” said Carlos.

Carlos and her husband are the captains of Ritual Azteca Huitzilopochtli (pronounced wee-chee-zo-polsh-tlee), a Woodburn-based Aztec dance group that is offering a free dance workshop at the Beaverton City Library at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“We just forget about the very basis of all life, and so the dances try to get you to connect with that,” said Carlos.

During the workshop, participants will have the opportunity to watch dances in action, learn about history and symbolism, then engage in a lesson to practice basic steps.

“Huitzilopochtli” is a word from the Nahuatl language, the original dialect of the Aztec people which is still spoken by nearly a million people in Mexico today.

“Literally, it means ‘hummingbird to the left.’ The poetic meaning is ‘willpower,’” said Carlos.

The group dances according to the inherited tradition of General Rosendo Plascencia Quintero, a revered elder in the Aztec cultural community.

“His life mission is to keep (the tradition) alive,” said Carlos.

After Spanish colonization of indigenous lands in Mexico, Aztecan dance and other aspects of culture were outlawed.

But the Aztecs kept their traditions alive through the framework of Catholicism, influences that remain in place today.

While some Aztecan dance groups reject Catholic influences and try to dig deeper into Aztec spirituality, Ritual Azteca Huitzilopochtli embraces that syncretic fusion, using instruments introduced by the Spanish and holding tributes to the Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic title for the Virgin Mary.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - The Ritual Azteca Huitzilopochtli dance group will offer a free worksho pat the Beaverton City Library on Saturday.

Symbolism and storytelling

While the workshop at the Beaverton City Library will involve guided instructions, the group does not teach new members steps in a formal sense.

Participants form a large circle, then learn through observation.

Most dances are oral stories, with different movements symbolic of various aspects of nature.

“For example, we imitate the sound of rain pouring by the stomping of feet while wearing anklet rattles made from seeds,” said Carolos.

To evoke the theme of rebirth, dancers crouch down and leap into the air with their arms wide open.

And while the group does not endorse one religion over another, the dances are certainly imbued with a sense of spirituality, said Carlos.

“People can express themselves, ask for a prayer for people in need,” she added.

Up until recently, indigenous heritage carried a stigma in Mexico, said Carlos.

“This is about celebrating indigenous heritage,” she said. “Because it has a lot of value.”

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