Mystery, history unmasked

Examining the history, uncovering the secrets and incorporating the folklore of the Mayans, the Incans and the Aztecs, students at Anoka Middle School for the Arts Washington campus celebrated those cultures May 24.

Angel Alejandro, a student at Anoka High School and member of the Ketzal Dancers, leads the troupe performing the Bunny Dance during an Unmasking the Cultures of the Americas presentation at Anoka Middle School for the Arts Washington campus May 24.

Angel Alejandro, a student at Anoka High School and member of the Ketzal Dancers, leads the troupe performing the Bunny Dance during an Unmasking the Cultures of the Americas presentation at Anoka Middle School for the Arts Washington campus May 24.

Using art, social studies, math, science and literature, sixth-graders translated their newfound knowledge of the Americas – the customs, the cultures, the stories and the people.

Equations of Mayan math adorned the hallways. Fragile load-bearing structures rested on desktops. Ceramic tiles were designed and fired. Documentary films were reviewed.

A rare collection of masks, regalia, tools and iconic pieces was on display and students served as docents – docents trained and prepped by those serving at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The May 24 Unmasking the Cultures of the Americas celebration climaxed with a traditional and high-energy Aztec dance performance by the Ketzal Dancers.

“We dedicate our dance to the cultures and to you, to your community, to your culture,” said Ketzal Dancer drummer and director Susana DeLeon.

“We are ambassadors of our culture and we do this so you can gain a better understanding and respect for each other so that we can have a big, big community.”

Dancers dressed in homemade costumes of full leather regalia, symbolic features painted and formed on breastplates and skirts, and wearing intricate crowns of pheasant feathers, stepped and kicked and bounced and hopped across the stage.

The hollow wooden knock of empty shells wrapped around their legs accented the rhythm of the Dance of Offering, the Bunny Dance, the Dance of Two Snakes, the Frog Dance, the Fire Dance and the Dance of Thank You to the Four Directions.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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