Ancient Mayan Dance

The Mayan dances have been preserved and performed by cofradias, quasi-religious groups composed mostly of men and housed in independent churches. Tecum's and Tol Chan's groups represent a break from church control.

The girls were dressed in white nighties embroidered with gaudy, bright flowers with white high heels on their feet. The boys wore white shirts, trousers and sandals. On their heads it was panamas for the men and flower covered combs and hats for the women.

Dance Types

Three types of performances are cited in the Maya language: dance (okot), theatrical presentations (baldzamil) and illusionism (ezyah). Dances followed a calendar, and ranged from performances with humor and tricks to dances in preparation for war and dances mimicking (and sometimes including) sacrificial events.

In the ceremonial Mayan Dance kings and nobles dressed up like jaguars, birds or some abstract being, covering their faces with masks, imitating and venerating all living creatures of their surroundings, which are as connected to us humans, as we all are connected to one another.

Holmul Dancers

Performers in supernatural costumes accompanied and reenacted mythical scenes, such as the example to the right known as the "Holmul dancers". Royal participants donned elaborate costumes and danced. Such large ceremonies would fill the plazas with noise and spectacle, spreading onto the building platforms above. The performances united the community as performers and audience shared the experience.

Fiestas, dancing and traditional music remain important as several festivals and celebrations occur throughout the year. On these special occasions, masks and elaborate costumes are worn by dancers, singers, and musicians.

Each dancer has a backrack. Since the dance is a universal tale, the dancers appear all around the vase surface, as if they are dancing in the sky that encircles the world. The art work appears to say that it was a dance about a historical sky event.

There were dances featuring animals and primordial humans (wayob). These are still performed in modified form in Maya communities, such as the dances of the Deer and the Monkeys. Also there were dances enacting the origin and ordering of the world, such as the one transcribed in the central portion of the Popol Vuj (Bonampak group), for which the missionaries attempted to substitute biblical stories.

Dance is still an essential component of religious experience today, serving as a medium for communication with the supernatural. During the Late Classic period (AD 600-900), dance assumed additional importance in Maya royal courts through an association with feasting and gift exchange. These performances allowed rulers to forge political alliances and demonstrate their control of trade in luxury goods.



This site covers several articles on ancient mayan, aztec histoty and Inca civilization. It also covers the differences and similarities between these cultures.
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