The Voladores Dancers or better defined as Danza de los Voladores – “Dance of the flyers”, have a long standing ritual. The Voladores origins are believed to come from Central Mexico. Their ancestors created the ceremonial Pole Dance which is still practiced in selected places throughout Mexico.
Once a small fishing village but now a vacation mecca, Playa del Carmen is fortunate enough to have a community of Voladores. Parque Los Fundadores – Founding Fathers Park is where they entertain people from all around the world with their incredible aerial acrobatic ritual.
The Voladores wear very bright and colorfully detailed clothing for the special event. They start their ceremony with a circular dance (pictured upper – right) around the blue pole. Afterwards they give a cordial bow before heading up to their elevated stage.
One by one they climb the 99 foot tall pole. They saddle themselves on a square tubular frame that is attached to a revolving hub. This hub sits atop the pole with a round platform situated on its crown.
Once the Voladores reach their perch, they secure their position across from each other. Then attach the rope to their ankle just above the top of the boot. They finish up by winding the rope around the pole with great precision. Much like a skydiver who dedicates his complete concentration when packing their parachute.
A lone Voladores stands below and plays a flute while performing his own pre-ritual ceremony. This helps soothe the tense moments before his fellow country men descend from the top of the pole. A crowd has gathered around with all eyes fixed upward. The Voladores do their final preparation.
When everyone seems situated and ready to go, the lead Voladores stands on the cap (shown right) that is fixed to the top of the pole. He is now balancing himself one hundred feet in the air on a metal platform that is no more than 3 feet in diameter. He says a final prayer before the dance commences.
All at once the four Voladores plunge
backwards leaving their narrow bar seat behind. They begin the spiral swing downwards with their only lifeline tied around the end of their leg.
The exact placement of the ropes and the motion of the dancers trajectory rotates the pole’s cap. This allows them to swing outwards as the rope unwinds from around their launching pad.
The Voladores smoothly finesse themselves down towards the ground while slightly twirling in mid air. This is nothing like a circus act, but more of a parament that reflects upon a form of tradition.
Slowly but surely the decorative capped heads with waving streamers get closer to the hard ground below. Their momentum slows and the Voladores get prepared to grab the rope and left themselves up to make a feet first landing.
When safely on the ground, everyone seems to fall out of their “Ah state” and gives a sigh of relief. All the while this surreal performance is unfolding before our eyes, the flute player keeps a constant calming tone.
According to the Totnac Myth, this ritual is approximately 450 years old and was supposedly created to please the Rain Gods during extensive droughts. At the end of the ceremony, the Voladores come around and ask for donations – on a voluntary basis only. This keeps the Voladores rich culture and tradition alive for their future generations to practice. If you ever get to Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, stop by the enchanting park and be prepared to witness a part of history come alive.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photography: Anthony Scopel & Crew
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
Technical Mastering & Support: Matt Kemper