Dance Camera West Presents GHOSTLY LABOR: A DANCE FILM Review — Bracero Rhythms

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The soft sound of winds swirling seamlessly melds with beaded rattle-type drums, sorts of single bongo-sized maracas. It’s as though someone slowly turned up a volume control to let us hear the rhythms already filling the air. The men playing these instruments wear field hand garb, as does the soulful mezzo soprano who begins singing in Spanish of laborers and laboring.

When the zapateado-style tap dancing women start their percussive accompaniment on their respective square boards set in the fields, the imagined volume control has hit full sound. Meanwhile, the camera lets us inhale the surrounds — of earth, of plants, of drying mud, of bounty, of harvested fields cut to flat, of circling trees.


This writer can think of few dance films that so successfully harness the power of combining camera with sound and movement to give a sense of place. This place, reminds of the pain-laden quip —“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” 

GHOSTLY LABOR Teaches Us the Rhythms of Labor

Later, there are more dancers, wielding sticks and flying skirts, hitting makeshift bucket drums and arching their torsos to bring to life the ghostly labors of the days before the fields were cleared. Short narrations by real farmworkers ask simply to be acknowledged for all that they do. When we hear and see a short segment of labor negotiations, we are so immersed in the percussive language of these performers that we feel we would also know how to tap out a Right On! or Yes, We Can!

Lovers of percussive dance will find much to admire in this short visually poetic film by John Jota Leaños and Vanessa Sanchez, as will anyone who appreciates nonverbal ways of communicating emotions through art.


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Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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