Javier Dzul performing his choreography with Dzul Dance. Time Digital Fotografia, Courtesy Dzul

This Ritual Mayan Dancer Started a Company to Reconnect With His Ancient Culture

I was born chosen to be a ritual Mayan dancer. In Western civilization, technology is used to control our world; in Mayan culture, magic is used to achieve the same purposes, and our body is the key to open the doors. Both of my parents are ritual dancers, and during my childhood in the jungle near Campeche, Mexico, I was trained to create magic with my body's energy. Mayans believe that we came to this world to understand the physical sensations and the power that exists in ourselves.

As a ritual dancer, you have to find your wayob, or animal spirit protector. Usually at the moment of birth this animal appears to your parents and they lead you to understand this relationship. I lived for seven years in the shadow of a jaguar, my animal protector. And I became a jaguar: When in need of power and wisdom, I dance and transform into a jaguar.

I first came to experience Western civilization at age 16, when I was escaping from extinction. I had been chosen the king of my tribe and was running from the Mexican government, so I hid in the U.S., performing with the Martha Graham Dance Company and others. I discovered dance with different eyes. It wasn't anymore to control energy, gain power and create magic. It was more about beauty, physical ability, politics, expressions of the mind, relationships and many other things that were foreign to me. So I immersed myself in a new world full of excitement.

But I felt that my body had lost its own expression. Eventually, the day came to find my ancient power again. I brought back my past by creating my own choreography and starting my company Dzul Dance. Now, I dance to give life to my culture, an ancient culture that is believed lost, a culture that lives through my body, my energy and the magic created by my skin.

At this point I may be the only Mayan dancing to regain his own soul.

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