This year marks the 39th annual performance of dance company Esperanza del Valle at El Teatro Campesino, which takes place Nov. 1-3. This year’s theme is “Homenaje del Veracruz,” but there is more to the performance that makes it a special occasion: Maestro Daniel Del Valle Hernandez, director of the Ballet Folklórico del Puerto de Veracruz, will perform with the troupe. He also choreographed five of the dances for the show.
It all started with a series of sketches on a paper placemat in a Veracruz restaurant over breakfast. Janet Johns, artistic director of Esperanza del Valle, watched as dance master Hernandez worked out the choreography.
“I asked him how he would amplify one of the dances to accommodate eight dancers rather than four and he just wrote it out on the place mat while we ate,” Johns said.
Johns met up with Hernandez on a recent trip to Veracruz, but she’s known him since 1991 when they first met at a dance conference in Xalapa.
“When I met him he was just a beginner dancer under Mario Cabrera [who taught dance at the Universidad Veracruzana for 35 years],” Johns said. “He became assistant director and now is the director of the Ballet Folklorico.”
Johns and Hernandez talked about some of the traditional dances of the region that Johns wanted to learn, and this led to their collaboration in the upcoming performances at El Teatro.
While the focus will be on the new dances coming from their collaboration, several dances that are Esperanza standards will also be performed. One of them is “Macaria,” a staging of a B. Traven story in which a young peasant woman takes a turkey from an offering and consequently faces devils and angels who try to sway her until she finally is confronted with her own mortality. Another is “Danza de los Viejos,” where all the performers wear carved wooden masks and dance their way to a surprising reveal at the end.
Johns described Esperanza del Valle as “some of the most generous and loving people I have ever worked with. We are a family and we have grown up together.”
Family is certainly a part of the troupe—Johns’ son Gabriel has danced with it for nine years. Dance Captain Noe Galmez’s son, 19-year-old Atzin, has been a member for seven years.
Johns is already making plans for 2020 when she hopes to bring three dance masters to town to help Esperanza del Valle celebrate its 40th year in San Juan.
Esperanza del Valle will perform at El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista on Friday, Nov. 1, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 3, at noon and 5 p.m. Tickets are available at esperanzadelvalle.org.