Through dance and pantomime, through deer songs, legends and stories of the pascolas, these dancers transport to pre-spanish times the crowd that always gathers around them. they have no formal vows but they are dedicated in thought to jesus. They dance at fiestas and with the matachinis dance as an escort to the holy figures in processions. At dawn the head pascola delivers a sermon similar to those of the maestros.
The Pascola Dancers
Melodious bells and the rustle of cocoon ankle rattles herald the arrival of the pascolas. When a pascola dances to the high notes of the flute and the pervasive rhythm of a drum played by one man he wears his painted wooden mask over his face and beats on his palm with a small instrument that jangles like a tambourine. For the alternate music of violin and harp he pushes his mask to one side. The string that ties his hair in a top knot is called "flower." in addition to dancing, the pascolas delight the people with nonsense, double talk, jokes, and stories, some of age-old tradition.
The Deer Dancers
With a brisk shake of his gourds and his belt of deer-hoof rattles, the deer dancer makes his entrance. His headdress is a stuffed deer head tipped with red ribbons which symbolize flowers. A red ribbon between the antlers is tied in the form of a cross. The deer songs to which he dances are treasured poetry from the past, reminiscent of the forest home of the deer, of flowers, clouds, rain, and wild creatures. The three deer singers play native instruments of water drum and swift-moving raspers. The songs and dances were originally hunting rituals.
A PASCOLA IMITATES A DEER DANCER
During the night the pascolas and deer dancer engage in pantomime often humorous, sometimes remnants of ancient dramatizations of hunter and hunted.
PASCOLA AND DEER DANCER AT A FIESTA
The Deer dances with each Pascola in turn, but only when the Pascolas dance to the music of their flute-drummer.