Latino Studies Folklórico
Olga Nájera-Ramírez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0265


The term “folklórico” derives from the Spanish adjective that translates as folkloric in English. In general, folkloric refers to vernacular dynamic cultural artistic expressions that are produced and disseminated through informal means. Folklórico dance in the United States, which is the focus of this entry, blossomed in the early 1960s and has become a dynamic transnational expressive medium through which participants pass on a strong sense of group aesthetics and identity. Folklórico dance is rooted in postrevolutionary Mexico when the country sought to establish a new national identity. A romantic nationalist spirit motivated an interest in vernacular expressions as sources for building a unique Mexican national identity. Concerned also with launching a tourist economy, Mexico realized that folk arts and dance was an excellent way to display the cultural diversity of Mexico at home and throughout the world. During the early 1920s the Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) spearheaded various endeavors to collect folk dances, throughout the nation. Misiones Culturales (Cultural Missions) consisted of workers that traveled to rural communities to teach literacy and improve the living conditions of the villagers. They also documented vernacular artistic expressions of these communities before they disappeared. In the 1930s the SEP established the first Escuela Nacional de Danza (National School of Dance) under the auspices of the Departmento de Bellas Artes (Department of Fine Arts). Led by revolutionary artists Carlos Mérida and Carlos Orozco Romero, the school established a specific focus on providing students with the foundational skills and knowledge to create “truly Mexican” dances. Faculty members engaged in researching vernacular dance forms, often referred to as bailes folklóricos (folk dances), bailes regionales (regional dances), danzas tradicionales (traditional dances), bailes típicos (typical dances), danzas indígenas (indigenous dances), danza autóctonas (native dances), and danzas nacionalistas (nationalist dances) to produce folklórico dances that were showcased at festivals. The term folklórico gained prominence with the success of the highly acclaimed national dance troupe, Ballet Folklórico de México, founded and directed in 1952 by the late Amalia Hernández. Combining the dance training techniques of classical ballet and modern dance with Mexican folk dances, Hernández created “theatrical spectacles” of dance and music. Informed by anthropological as well as historical research, Hernández’s dance presentations displayed the diverse cultural communities and customs of ancient and contemporary Mexico. Today, folklórico as used in the United States generally refers to (1) a stylized and choreographed dance genre based on regional folk dances and traditions of Mexico, and (2) the dance troupes who perform this type of dance.

Foundational Publications on Folklórico

Despite its popularity, folklórico dance has long been ignored as a legitimate topic worthy of serious study, consequently the publications are minimal. Over the past three decades, however, several important scholarly works have been published that provide more insight into the complex history of this dance form in Mexico and in the United States. The leading Mexican scholar that has published work on folklórico is Margarita Tortajada Quiroóz, a former modern dance teacher who is currently a researcher in the Centro Nacional de Investigación, Documentación e Información de la Danza “José Limón” (The National Dance Center for Research, Documentation and Information on Dance “Jose Limón”). Tortajada 1995 and Tortajada 2000, are key publications that provide historical foundations of folklórico as a field. Another important publication is an article that she published with Alan Stark (Stark and Tortajada 1994, which offers a review of scholarly works in Mexican dance. Nájera-Ramírez 2010 is a film that provides a good overview of the creation and dissemination of folklórico dance as a distinct genre.

  • Nájera-Ramírez, Olga, director and producer. Danza folklórica escénica: El sello artístico de Rafael Zamarripa. Santa Cruz, CA, 2010.

    This documentary (in English and Spanish) traces the development of folklórico dance on both sides of the border through the life and work of the renowned artist and choreographer Rafael Zamarripa and the dancers he has influenced.

  • Stark, Alan, and Margarita Tortajada. “Dance Research in Mexico.” Dance Research Journal 26.2 (1994): 73–77.

    DOI: 10.2307/1477939

    This article provides a succinct and informative guide to research, institutions, scholars, and literature that focuses on Mexican dance.

  • Tortajada, Margarita. Danza y poder. Serie Investigación Y Documentación De Las Artes. Segunda Época. Danza. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1995.

    This book focuses on the development of the field of dance from the postrevolutionary period to the 1990s. Chapter 2 and 7 provide information most relevant to folklórico dance.

  • Tortajada, Margarita. La Danza escénica de la Revolución Mexicana, nacionalista Y vigorosa. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de la Revolución Mexicana, 2000.

    Provides the historical background on nationalist theatrical dance, including folklórico dance.

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