Last week when I was coming home from a shopping trip a group of my neighbors were sitting on the porch and, as so often happens, they asked me to join them for a while.
One of the first things that came up was the cherry-blueberry cobbler I made for Lleya’s birthday and they wanted to know how to make it. It’s a very simple recipe and, surprisingly enough, I was able to tell them, off of the top of my head, how to make it and I was able to do it in Spanish, too! My neighbor told me that she wanted me to make it for her Mother’s Day party. Well, that’s a way a way yet. Mother’s Day, which is a very big deal here in Panama, isn’t until December 8th.
Then, somehow, the conversation turned to music. I don’t know how that happened since while everyone says I speak Spanish very well, I have to tell them that I speak it better than I hear it. I try not to translate everything I hear, but sometimes I can’t avoid doing that and I end up lagging behind in the conversation. Let me give you an example of what I mean. When someone mentions the river that runs by the house and they say “El Rio” I don’t translate that. El Rio is el rio. It just is and there’s no reason for me to translate it in my head. But I get hung up on the verbs and while I muddle along trying to figure out the translation for a verb tense the conversation has now gone on and I have to rush trying to keep up.
Anyway, one thing I find rather amusing is that the Panamanians are always amazed that I know so many of the popular musicians here and that I really enjoy the musica típica. I mentioned that I’d been to see Samy y Sandra last month and how much I enjoyed watching watching the girls dancing the cumbia.
My neighbor’s sister-in-law, Amelia, said there was going to be a dance program the coming week and asked if I’d like to go. Naturally I said I would, and so, last night, Amelia, her friend, Fela, and her young nephew, Llasmin, and I went to see the 1st International Folkloric Dance Festival sponsored by the Academia José A. Corella. It was to feature dancers from Panama, Costa Rica and Argentina.
The program was supposed to start at 6:30 but the group from Costa Rica was held up at the border so the start of the program was put on hold. But no one who had come to see the show was upset since this is Panama and time here is different than it is in the States. Here, a starting time is simply a suggestion, not something set in stone. So our little group went to a cantina across the street for some refreshments.
The show got underway about an hour and fifteen minutes later and that’s when I learned that my replacement camera sucks. It takes a second or so from the time you press the shutter until the camera reacts and by that time what you’ve wanted to capture has vanished and you’ve got something else. I’m not even going to try and show you the pictures I got. They suck that bad.
The Argentinian men had their version of Gaucho pants, shirts, straw hats and scarves. The women had rather drab, in comparison to the Panamanian, dresses. The first number was a wonderfully executed tango by a young couple. The other dances included a lot of foot stamping by the guys and graceful twirls from the women.
The Panamanian dances were presented by groups of different ages and also represented different regions of the country. There was Caribbean garb from the Bocas del Toro province and then the more traditional Panamanian dances with the women in their Polleras. What I enjoyed the most were the youngsters ranging in age, I’d guess, from about seven to twelve or so. It seemed to me, though, that while the girls were having a great time, the boys were probably either brothers or cousins of the girls and their moms had said, you’re going to dance or else. The older guys, though, were there because they loved to dance. Period.
Also, it’s all about the girls, and it’s all about style and fashion. The pollera is an elaborate dress with about umteen gazillion pleats and fancy decoration. Typically they can take as much as a year or more to make one and they can cost hundreds of dollars. There are several styles. The youngest wear the pollera montuna.
This is an example of the more elaborate polleras
You’ll notice the elaborate hair decorations of the women. They’re called tembleque.
The guys, on the other hand get to wear brown slacks and a plain white shirt and a straw hat. Like I said, it’s all about the girls.
The Costa Rican group finally showed up, but since the show was running long they only did three short numbers. The girls weren’t nearly as elaborately costumed as their Panamanian cousins but their skirts somewhat resembled the pollera skirts though without the decoration.
Both the Panamanian and Costa Rican troupes has live music and they did a wonderful, spirited job of backing up the dancers.
Here’s one of many YouTube videos of the Academía to give you an idea of what the program was like…
As the old saying goes, a wonderful time was had by all.