PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- The dance began with a man in a feathered headdress and face painted with intricate patterns pounding a slow, ominous beat into an animal skin drum as seven others marched out, the seashells strung around their ankles clicking together in rhythm. "This is not a show, it's a ritual," said Tezkah Arias, leader of the Queens-based group Yayauhki Tezcatl, which performs traditional Aztec dances and music. The group was invited to perform at a recent celebration of Mexican culture at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. The ancient Aztec civilization that existed before the lands now known as Mexico were colonized by Spain is an important aspect of Mexican culture.
The dance they performed was meant to honor the Sun and Earth and to give thanks for life and the elements. In traditional Aztec beliefs, people are connected to everything through energy and it is through dancing that they can align themselves with that energy. Arias emphasized that the traditional Aztec dance is not just a part of Mexican culture but for all Latin American cultures that have roots to native peoples in the Americas. "It's all part of the same philosophy," said Arias. "To show respect for the planet and to connect our bodies with the energy of the universe." Have you ever seen a traditional Aztec dance performed?
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