Google users searching the web Tuesday (Sept. 19) will come across a festive doodle honoring Mexican choreographer Amalia Hernández.
Hernández, who would have been 100 today, is an icon in Mexico. As the director of Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet, which she founded in 1952, she extolled and celebrated her country’s culture in her dances for decades. She mostly worked in the pre-web era—she died in 2000—but the imagery she created, as Google’s doodle demonstrates, shines online.
Here are some of the elements in Hernández’s life’s work that still make it resonate on stage and elsewhere:
Hernández scoured Mexico’s towns for popular dances and cobbled them into performances fit for the world’s most important stages.
She used elements from the more universal languages of classical and contemporary dance (link in Spanish) to make Mexico’s traditional forms more easily understandable to broader audiences.
She distilled Mexicans’ tendency for the baroque into crisp, iconic forms that look great in a darkened theatre, and as stylized doodles.
Hernández’s ballet helped construct a version of Mexican identity around bright colors that appealed to both Mexicans and foreigners.
Hernández’s vision of Mexico is idealized, and not immune to accusations of cultural appropriation. But as design, it’s proved to be timeless.