The Mexican hat dance is one of the most popular dance forms all over the world, and at one point in time, it was also considered the national folk dance of Mexico. Dancing with hats came into existence during the revolution and symbolized national unity. It still holds that kind of importance in the hearts and minds of the Mexicans, as a unifying icon that brings their traditions to the fore.
A single dancer, couple or a group of dancers can perform this dance form. The steps are the same when dancing in a group or with a partner, but if you are dancing alone, the steps change drastically. The dance is called "Jarabe"- this word is derived from the Arabian word "Xarab" which means mixture of herbs, which probably refers to the courtship between couples or the mixed feelings of friendship, love, and cooperation between fellow human beings.
In this dance form, the rhythm plays a very important role. The speed of the movements increases as the tempo increases, and the body has to move in sync to four beats. The arms have to be crossed and it should be done like so - the right elbow is on the left hand and the right hand has to be in the "waving" position. Now the movement is such that the right hand has to be whirled back and simultaneously the right heel has to be put in front.
The next step would be to do the same with the left hand in a waving position and this time the left heel has to be put in front. Next the first step has to be repeated, and then at the count of four, clap twice, and then again clap thrice, and shout "ole", which is an Spanish exclamation that expresses joy. This is how the Mexican hat dance has to be performed.
When there are more than two dancers they hold hands and move in a circle, using side-to-side steps as they dance. But when it is a single performer he throws a Mexican hat (sombrero) and then skips around the hat with one foot and moves in circular motion with his fist on his waist. His step is repeated several times but each time in the opposite direction to the previous step.
Costumes Worn and Significance of the Steps
The hat dance was originally a form of dance wherein the man tries to court the woman in a very fashionable way. Men wear a "charro" suit that has decorative silver buttons, during the performance. It is a three-piece suit with a vest, jacket and pair of intricately designed pants. The women wear the China poblana that is like a servant outfit. It consists of a white blouse, which has beautiful embroidery on it. The skirt is also decorated with beads and has floral or geometric shapes.
The male tries to impress the female with his tapping and stamping, which is a way of showing his machismo and love for her, but the woman rejects him, assuming that he's drunk. Now the man throws his hat on the ground and as the woman stoops to pick it up, the man kicks his leg over her head showing that now he has conquered her. Then both of them dance together to show that they are one, and ultimately, they hide their faces behind the hat to feign that they are kissing, and thus, the dance ends with applause and cheers.
The Mexican hat dance is a very enthusiastic way of expressing one's emotions and is also a delight to perform or even watch.