Cultural experience awaits audiences at Gallo Center as Posada Navideña dances into town

Experience the sights and sounds of a traditional Mexican Christmas with "Posada Navideña" at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

Presented by Instituto Mazatlan Bella Artes de Sacramento, the two-hour family show features 24 dancers and 10 musicians who will play mariachi songs.

"It's going to be a great show — lots of dancers, lots of things going on," said Artistic Director Steven Valencia.

The program opens with dances from different states and regions in Mexico. There is a nod to weddings in Huasteca, performances from Michoacán and dances that show Mexico's African influences. There is also a tribute to Veracruz with references to its fishing history and a dance about a witch.

In the second half, there is a traditional Christmas processional (posada), Mexican holiday songs (villancicos), a visit from the Three Wise Men, a piñata party and a mariachi fiesta in Jalisco.

The posada recreates the story of Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem before the birth of Christ.

The company is also performing "Posada Navideña" in Santa Rosa and Napa.

Founded in 1994, the company performs folk dances mixed with indigenous rituals and elements from contemporary movement. The group performed "Corazon de Mexico" at the Gallo Center in May 2008.

Instituto Mazatlan Bella Artes also has a school that teaches the fundamentals of dance to students of all ages. Faculty members have danced with the most prestigious companies in Mexico, including Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, La Universidad de Guadalajara, La Universidad de Colima, Instituto National de Bellas Artes (Campeche), and Sacramento Ballet to name a few.

The holiday program is one of the group's most popular offerings.

"We really try to bring in the elements of Christmas in Mexico for those who are from Mexico so they can reconnect with traditions that they may have had and for people who are not from Mexico so they can learn the traditions of Mexico," Valencia said. "Mexico is a very fun, very vibrant country."