Dancing Danzón and Other Steps in the Main Square
Every Thursday and Sunday afternoons in Puerto Vallarta’s Main Square, the Municipal Band performs traditional music in a well-attended event that serves as a meeting point for visitors and locals of all ages—particularly seniors—who enjoy dancing.
If you have strolled around Puerto Vallarta’s El Centro neighborhood on a Thursday or Sunday afternoon, you’ve probably noticed a joyful celebration taking place at the Main Plaza. As people gather around the bandstand and local musicians begin to play, the plaza becomes a dance floor that compels just about everyone—any age or nationality—to dance. Danzón, cha-cha-chá, swing, big band, mexican music, tango and semi classical music are some of the genres and rhythms played by Puerto Vallarta’s Municipal Band as part of a tradition that originated in 1981, when the ensemble was founded, supported by the local government.
The idea of creating an official band for Puerto Vallarta first emerged from different bands, that used to perform at the Main Plaza every year after the National Worker’s Day parade, on May 1. “We used to gather on that specific date and from time to time throughout the year, but we didn’t receive any payment. We performed for the pleasure of it, and still do,” remarked Municipal Band Director and Arranger, Raúl Segura Morales. Nowadays, the ensemble is comprised of 14 musicians playing trombones, trumpets, tuba, clarinet, alto and tenor sax, and drums. Their repertoire includes nearly 300 songs, most of which have been considered from petitions made by dancers who attend their performances regularly.
Teacher Raúl—as he is known—explains that an increasing number of people, particularly seniors, have been increasingly participating for several years, and danzón—the official musical genre and dance of Cuba—is their favorite genre: “Unexpectedly, people started dancing danzón. It all began with one couple and, one at a time, more and more senior couples joined our performances. Now we have this amazing danzón club.”
“It is incredibly satisfying to see all this people gathered at the main plaza every week. Some of them even follow us to our performances around the city and the nearby municipalities.”
Even though danzón originated in Cuba, it was introduced to Mexico in the 1900s, and has remained popular ever since. It is characterized by an slow and measured rhythm, resulting in an elegant partner dance.
Luisa Topete from Guadalajara has been part of this senior danzon movement for three years. She travels to Puerto Vallarta every two weeks to attend the event. “I consider all these beautiful people as my second family. They opened their doors without knowing me to rehearse danzon. I am deeply grateful to them for their kindness.”
Luisa is convinced her health has improved considerably since she started dancing. She confesses to have suffered from joint problems, high cholesterol and stress, symptoms that seem to have vanished. Along with her friends, Juan Torres and Maria Rosario Sánchez, she encourages not only seniors, but everyone, to join them and let themselves be seduced by the sounds of the danzón.
“Unlike other dance groups, this was created by seniors, but that doesn’t mean younger adults can’t join. This is a free space. Here you can dance as many songs as you want, with anyone you want”
Juan Torres, who has been dancing danzón for 12 years and currently shares his expertise with new dancers, mentions that the most important thing to learn about danzón—or any other rhythm—is to listen attentively to the music; it may sound simple but can be quite a challenge.
Whether you are interested in learning to dance or just enjoy watching a local tradition, attending the event to witness how passionate these dancers are for the activity, is both an inspiring and moving experience. The Puerto Vallarta Municipal Band performs every Thursday and Sunday, 6 – 7 pm, at the Main Plaza in El Centro. More information, along with their events calendar, can be found at the Puerto Vallarta’s Institute of Culture Facebook Page.
This is little taste of the music played by the Municipal Band!