As I continue my quest to travel the world documenting dancers in different countries, my next destination after visiting Cuba last March was inspired partly by something I heard someone say not too long ago. Words that still echo in my mind, and I bet on a lot of other people’s minds. “When Mexico sends it’s people…”. The rest of that sentence is full of so much negativity and hate, I won’t even bother to repeat.
And so it was, I set myself to prove those words wrong and show how beautiful Mexico and its people really are. Thanks to the support from the folks at Fujifilm I was able to head over to Mexico City. I researched and contacted a good number of local dancers and packed my bags.
I arrived on Oct 25th. My first 3 days were dedicated to teaching workshops and hosting instameets (photowalks). The following 10 days were all for me to discover the city by the hand of the extraordinary dancers I met.
In Mexico, I encountered a country deeply rooted within the richness of their traditions. The Day the Dead the whole city celebrated the joy of living by honoring those who walked with them once. Bold and vibrant colors everywhere, mirroring the character of the people who call the city home. The same who curiously stood by while I photographed the dancers and in many occasions even offered ovations after witnessing our shoots. They clapped and cheered the dancers after we were finished shooting at a location.
That was definitely a first for me. Often while shooting here in NYC, people often pass us by, perhaps softly shaking their heads producing a chuckle spiced with a slight hint of cynicism. Some will try to steal a picture of the moment. A few will even go as far as boldly expressing discomfort if they feel we are interrupting their way. The Mexican applause thus definitely took me by surprise. It made me feel even better about what we were doing. Just by being there, we happened to brighten their day for that brief moment, and they brighten ours in return.
“What will you take back from México?” asked a me journalist who interviewed me for a local newspaper while I was there.”The food” I jokingly replied, because, of course! Yet in hindsight, what I actually took with me was that gratitude in people’s eyes. Folks seemed genuinely thankful to have been able to partake of a different experience instead of feeling that some strangers were obstructing their path. It was not about being impressed by the dancers’ abilities, it was genuine gratitude for breaking their routine and offering a minute or two of the unexpected. I was not just creating photographs, I was producing a privileged moment in time for those around us.
The rhetoric that permeates our times is sadly about division and segregation. The warmth with which the people of Mexico received me and the dancers as we shot along the streets truly inspired me. We need to understand that it is OK to stop and take a minute to breath and admire the unexpected things we stumble upon everyday and often take for granted.
I am extremely glad for being able to visit Cuba and Mexico this exact year. Specially considering our relationship with these two nations faces a real threat with the coming administration. I can only hope I am proven wrong and we can continue to strengthen the bonds with both of the two countries. There is indeed an immense amount of things we need to learn from them and should.
All images and text ©2016 Omar Z Robles. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or use with out written consent from Omar Z Robles.
Gracias por expresarte de esa manera de la gente mexicana, ha sido una gran experiencia el que hayas estado en nuestro país. Vuelve pronto Omar!
WOW! First of all that is so beautiful how you lay out the idea of going against the stereotypes of Mexico. “I set myself to prove those words wrong and show how beautiful Mexico and its people really are.” Another thing is not so much the hateful comments, but the Mexicans who accept this dogma and feel ashamed to represent their culture out of shame. I have been one of these type. As one who lives in Texas near the border, and struggles with understanding my own culture I fully relate to that. Your post is empowering to show that brown is beautiful. I do not yet fully understand why many mexican americans that I know give off this shameful aura about who they are but my gut tells me that it has to do with long history of people construing the beauty in Mexico. All i’m trying to say is that I agree with “proving those words wrong” but to remember to lift those up who are ashamed of who they are in all cultures not just Mexico.
On the other hand, lately I have been teaching myself to dance. This blog has inspired me to not give a f**k in public. I have made progressed but sometimes its difficult during a session to concentrate on my movements while i’m more concerned with being negatively criticized by onlookers in the gym/studio who are not even dancing.
If I may elaborate on thoughts about some shots. In Monica Arroyo’s shot between the traffic. At times thats how I feel. Like i’m in the way, in the road, headlights on everyone watching. Like I have to curl up, instead of look tall strong graceful and elegant. Then juxtapose that to the crowds in the background cheering that is so amazing. (I just got chills thinking about that).
Just to go back on what you stated about shooting in NY with passers by, Mark Morris said something along the lines of “We are all born dancers, until we are taught (by society) not to dance.” – It’s so sad that dancers are shunned in society yet so beautiful how you have portrayed public dance in this blog. Its really empowering. Can you imagine if learning dance was elevated to the level of learning math, or language. Your blog is such quality I really admire your work and think you have done excellent job documenting your voyage south. I got inspired by the blog in the fact that i’m not going to give a f*ck anymore when I am dancing, just going to concentrate on appreciating the movements and being in my zone learning back what I have lost. Thanks for the post!
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Omar, your photos from this project are beautiful. I loved many of them. Would like to have at least one hanging on my walls. Is there a way to buy your work? Thank you
Thank you so much for your kind words.
You can purchase prints of my work following this address:
All the best !
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Hola Omar! Gracias por tus fotos. Quiero compartirlas con mis estudiantes en Gloucester,MA donde enseño español. (Y también con mi amiga y su hija que practica ballet. Sus imagenes son tan lindas, y tus palabras de la necesidad de aprendiendo y compartiendo entre nuestro pais y Mexico (y Cuba también). Que tengas un buen día!
Muchas gracias Omar, da gusto ver algo tan bonito capturado en México.
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Amazing pictures! ! Thank you for capturing in such a unique manner the beauty of Mexico and its people. This is the type of art that inspires humanity to make the world a better place.
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Amazing! Mexico was always appealing to me but now after this photos I would be a pleasure to travel there and I will.
In the pictures I like the elegant movements presenting their souls. Incredible. However more I prefer the interaction of the audience. Applause. 🙂
Creating a moment for them in one of their regular days and realising the gratitude in their eyes was very touching
I LOVE how you capture every perfect moment. Every pose, every color, every setting, just pure perfection! Please continue you work!. I adore it!
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Amazing photographer Omar Z Robles showing his work through an interpretation of the human body, through dance and images. A new outlook on the world around us through no words but movement.