The capacity crowd sat in awe as deep drum sounds filled the space of the Triton Museum of Art’s Warburton Gallery. Women dressed in costumes with feathered headdresses danced to the beat, telling stories with their arm movements and each stomp of their feet.
The traditional Aztec dances, performed by Tezkatlipoka Aztec Drum and Dance, were centered around the warrior, and were part of a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration.
Before the celebration though, the performers held a ceremony outside of the museum to remember those who have died – men, women and children – and asked that members of the audience with photos of their loved ones to place them on an alter set up to memorialize people who could not be present.
As the Nov. 7 Triton Free Fridays event began, performer Nauhxa Chavira explained each dance and encouraged the audience to embrace their inner warrior by living the four trademarks: following their heart, having no fear of death, observing and creating.
“A warrior doesn’t think; he knows,” she said. “He follows his heart. He observes … Life doesn’t have to be hard. We make it a lot harder than it has to be. A warrior doesn’t think too much … he just does.”
The movements, combined with the pounding drums and maracas, captivated the crowd, drawing them deeper into the performance and removing them from the outside world.
Victor Monarrez of Alviso saw a flyer for the show and attended because he had recently been researching indigenous dance.
“The real, deep, rich and philosophical meanings of indigenous dance have been on my mind recently so it was perfect because I had just been reading about it,” said Monarrez, a music major at San Jose State University, adding that he was pleased with the performance. “Overall, it was interesting seeing an all-female troupe, except there was one gentleman playing the drum … The visual aspect was great – the colorful aspect.”
Tezkatlipoka, based in San Jose, performs throughout Silicon Valley. Drop-in community classes are offered for current and new students interested in learning about Aztec dance and drumming every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Roosevelt Community Center, 901 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose. Classes are $3 for adults and $1 for children 12 and under. Visit, http://www.tezkatlipoka.com to learn more.
Triton Free Fridays continues on Friday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. when the series welcomes the Santa Clara Ballet for an event that combines the City’s Tree Lighting with the museum’s holiday gift fair. Admission to all three events is free.