Chile’s classical dance world celebrates 49 artistic years

Time-honored production returns to the stage after almost 20 years of slumber to mark the anniversary of one of Chile’s most revered balletic folklore companies.

BAFONA is one of Chile’s most revered balletic folklore dance companies. Photo by Chile’s Culture and Arts Council / Facebook.
BAFONA is one of Chile’s most revered balletic folklore dance companies. Photo by Chile’s Culture and Arts Council / Facebook.

Traditional Chilean dances including the cueca, the diablada and the trastrasera, have long since formed part of Chile’s artistic cultural heritage, but one company in particular has loyally dedicated its time to formalizing the professional practice and appreciation of these art forms.

Last month, The National Folkloric Ballet of Chile (BAFONA) celebrated 49 years of balletic production and creative flair by hosting a special gala in the Teatro de Carabineros in the center of Santiago.

In light of the group’s 49th anniversary, Culture Minister Claudia Barattini took the opportunity to highlight the many successes BAFONA has achieved on Chile’s behalf in the cultural sector over the years.

“BAFONA’s impeccable path is reflected in both the quality and artistry of dance and music folklore, as well as in the efforts undertaken to generate audiences,” Barattini explained.

Despite the difficulties in the montage of the traditional production of Zamacueca — a performance inspired from the most traditional form of Chilean cueca — the decision was made to bring it out into the limelight once more, after almost 20 years on the sidelines, as part of BAFONA’s 49th birthday celebrations.

“Putting Zamacueca back on the stage meant reigniting a production that had become, for a long time, just a memory, and what better way to do it than for our anniversary,” said Leticia Lizama, Artistic Director for the Culture Council.

“It also forced us to take responsibility for the revitalization of a dance which addresses brotherhood in the small villages of South America’s Southern Cone. In this sense, we have the responsibility to help others understand that we are all part of the same civilization,” Lizama continued.

The Zamacueca was first performed by BAFONA in 1995. Thorough an investigation of the typical form of cueca in Chile, the company delicately crafted the particular artistry of the piece, incorporating a number of modern versions of the dance alongside its earliest interpretations. The first production of Zamacueca also took inspiration from the creation of new dance forms — derivations of the original Chilean cueca. It’s one of BAFONA’s most special creations, as it embodies what the company values most — the renovation of classics and a celebration of traditional for modern-day audiences in a contemporary style.

BAFONA, founded in 1965 by a group of physical education teachers, began its long history under the direction of Claudio Lobos Amaro. By 1969, the company was following the lead of a new director, Rodolfo Reyes Cortés, and operating as a professional dance company on a grand scale.

The formal training of the group gained international recognition of various traditional Chilean dances. Chile’s cultural industry owes a great deal to BAFONA for its dedication to the diffusion of the country’s diverse dance culture and heritage.