Baile Grande

*Note: The following detailed description supplements mention of the baile grande given in Dancing with the Virgin: Body and Faith in the Fiesta of Tortugas, New Mexico (University of California Press, 2001: 164-5). It is a group variation of the indio dance (also called the Tigua or Pueblo dance) described in the book. While people considered the indio dance to be traditional and unchanging, some formations for the baile grande were invented recently, within the last fifty years. While the formations of the indio dance were performed by only two or four couples at a time, those of the baile grande were performed by all the dancers together. These formations included parallel lines (I below), an “X” (II below), and a Christian cross (III below). Done to one of the songs of the indio dance, and using the same basic step, its innovation lay in the choreography. The baile grande is done on December 12th, in front of the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and during the final procession at the changeover of majordomos.

The following description refers to the baile grande done on December 12, 1987; among the dancers, there are 12 men and 12 women. The men's line to the north, women's to the south, face each other about ten feet apart. From the perspective of the virgin and the church, men are to the left, women right. The Pueblo drum group is behind and between the lines. With the start of the song, the dancers take up the duple-beat Pueblo step.

Parallel lines:

For the first formationsion, the two lines begin perpendicular to the church and transit to four lines parallel to the church. They then reform back into their opening two-line perpendicular positions. The transitions proceed as follows.
The two lines begin facing each other. Dancing in place, the lines divide in half, the front half facing backward, the far half facing forward. All file outward and back into place (Figure 1). Thus, when they re-form, the far halves of each line face the church, the near face the drum group (Figure 2).


From here, the leaders advance their lines inward and, passing each other, stop when the groups are side-by-side, making four parallel lines (Figures 3 and 4). In these positions, all dance in place.


The first person in each line then leads his or her group back into the original two-line formationsion (Figure 5), near halves facing far halves (Figure 6). Men’s and women’s lines turn in to face each other, and the entire pattern repeats for a second time.

"X" formationsion:

There is no break in the music leading into the second figure when the dancers form themselves into and out of the shape of an “X.” As a transition between formations, the two lines face inward toward each other, dancing in place. To begin the figure, the dancers turn so that the front half of each line faces forward while the far half faces back. Those in the front halves file forward, turn toward each other, and pass each other by, so that men and women are reversing places, ending facing away from the church (Figure 7a). Meanwhile, in the far halves of the lines, the far person in each line leads his or her group in a file outward and forward again, back into their original places, but now facing forward (Figure 7b).

Thus, women comprise the near half of the left line and the far half of the right, while men comprise the near half of the right line and far half of the left. Near halves face the drum group, far the church (Figure 8). The head person in each of the four groups next leads his or her half-line toward the center point, where the four lines meet. Those following the lead person position themselves into the arms of the “X” (Figure 9). All dance in place.

To return, the man and woman leading the far halves of the lines simply lead their lines forward, out, and back, into their original positions facing the drum (Figure 10a). The man and woman heading the front groups lead their lines inward, past each other's line and back into their original positions, facing the church (Figure 10b). All the dancers face in toward the opposite line.


The entire “X” formationsion is repeated.

One repetition of the parallel lines formationsion follows.

This ends the first section of the dance.



Cross formationsion:

There is a break in the music before the third formationsion, the cross. The dancers begin, as before, with the lines facing each other. The men turn in place toward the drum and file back and inward, returning to place facing the church, while the women’s line turns towards the church and files forward and outward, returning to face the drum.

The men’s line now files forward and out, away from the women’s line, while the women’s line files back and inward toward the men’s line (Figure 11). The women fall into place behind the last man in the men’s line, while the leading half of the men’s line turn inward to intersect their own line at the place where the women meet the men (Figure. 12 and photograph) In the final formationsion, there are three men jutting out on each side of the main line, thus forming the bar of the cross (Figure 13). All dance in place, facing forward toward the church, then rotating clockwise to dance facing north, then east, south, and once again west toward the church

To return from these positions, the men forming the horizontal bar of the cross face right and file forward (Figure 14a), passing in front of the main line of men, who fall into place behind them(Figure 14b). Meanwhile, the women behind the men on the vertical bar of the cross circle to the left, back toward the drum, and forward into their original line (Figure 14c). Thus the lines end with men facing the drum, women the church. The lines now face each other, and the pattern begins again, this time with the women forming the bar of the cross. This sequence is as follows.


The two lines face each other and begin the dance step. The men file forward toward the church and out, returning to place facing the drum. The women file back and inward, returning to place facing the church. Now the women file forward and out, while the men file back and inward, falling into place behind the women’s line. The forward half of the women’s line turns inward midway to form the horizontal bar of the cross, intersecting the vertical bar where men have fallen in behind women. Again all dance facing forward, turning clockwise toward the north, east, south, and west again.

To return to their original places, the women forming the horizontal bar of the cross file left and forward, crossing in front of the women forming the vertical bar of the cross, who fall into place behind them, all returning to their original line facing the drum. Starting with the first man behind the bar of the cross, the men file right, back, around the vertical staff of the cross, and forward into their original places facing the church. The lines turn in to face each other. The polvederos (shotgun guards) deliver a shotgun blast, and the dance is over.