In the sacred Tibetan Skeleton dance two Dharmapalas (Protectors of Truth) appear, played by Monks, deities whose role is to protect the cemetery grounds. Their presence also reminds the audience of the ephemeral nature of this world and of their own mortality. The cult of ?the Se?cond Buddha?, Padmasambhava, initiated the practice through the rich mythological literature.
Film and music of shimmering yet jarring beauty play together on a South Seas beach in “Legong: Dance of the Virgins.” It’s a rarely screened 1935 silent movie, shot entirely in Bali with a Balinese cast, mixed with a new score by Club Foot Orchestra and Gamelan Sekar Jaya. Presented in a crude but rich two-strip early Technicolor process, one of the last silent films made by Hollywood, it depicts Bali as Westerners idealized it at the time.
In the pre-Hispanic era, skulls were kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. These ancestors passed down the knowledge that souls exist after death, resting in Mictlan, the land of the dead, not for judgment or resurrection, but for the day each year when they could return home to visit their loved ones.
Groups of Kumeyaay People live in the isolated canyons of the Tijuana River watershed, high in the Baja California peninsula. They harvest acorns and pine nuts, hunt rattlesnake and small animals, collect grasses to weave baskets. They allow a glimpse of what life in Southern California before the Spanish arrived was like.
“Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti” journeys into the world of the Vodoun religion, communing with the drums and loa rituals, made by avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren between 1947-1951.
The masked dance ritual called Wanaragua, takes place as part of the New Year’s celebration among the Garífuna villages on the Caribbean Coast of Central America.
Short poems, anecdotes, mocking or reverent tributes, called calaveras or “skulls,” are given to celebrate public or private figures. In Los Angeles, for the last seven years Tropico de Nopal Gallery has taken the custom into the realm of performance art-fashion show-walking altar display.