First Mexican Dance Instruction Book

Lithography Music & Original Hand-Colored Lithograph Plates

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

192. IBARRA, Domingo. Coleccion de bailes de sala, y método para aprenderlos sin ausilio de maestro, dedicada a la juventud Mexicana por Domingo Ibarra. Contiene las reglas generales del baile, conocimiento y método para ejecutar los pasos de que se componen los bailes mas generalizados, acompañándose para la mejor comprension de ellos seis láminas con diversas figuras litografiadas.... Mexico: Tipograpfía de Nabor Chavez, Calle de la Canoa núm 5, 1860. [2], [1-5] 6-74, [2], [34 (11 pieces of music)] pp., 6 hand-colored lithograph plates. 8vo (21.5 x 14.5 cm), original black half sheep over decorative cloth blind stamped on upper cover, spine gilt-lettered and decorated, original blue and brown marbled endpapers. Small snag in spine (no loss), lightly rubbed, fore edges of upper board moderately eroded, lower fore edge chipped, corners bumped. Some leaves lightly browned, but otherwise interior, including plates, is fine.

     First published edition of the first Mexican dance instruction book. Cf. Palau 117594 & Porrúa Catalogue 5 (1949) 5949 (1862 2d edition, from the same setting of type but with a new title page). Very rare. None on OCLC, but a copy is in the Biblioteca Nacional of Mexico.

     The genesis of this work is outlined in four letters printed herein, dated between 1 January 1858 and 28 March 1858, among Benito Soto, Ignacio Herrera, and Ibarra himself. In the first letter, Soto explains to Herrera that he is interested in obtaining a book of dances so that the local youth will have something better to do than play cards and indulge in other less-than-desirable activities. He further notes that the severe winter has increased the desirability of wholesome indoor activities to offset the “horroroso vicio del juego.” In his 3 February reply, Herrera states that he can find no such books in Mexico City but has approached his friend Ibarra, who promptly promised “que muy pronto tendré el gusto de remitir á V. una coleccion completa de todos los bailes que están en uso, con el agregado de unas cuadrillas históricas.” In his letter of 26 March 1858, Ibarra states that he is delivering the book to him, complete with six plates and ten pieces of music. That publication, however, was obviously for private use and not published, because it lacks a title page and the first two letters. In his 28 March letter, Herrera states that he intends to publish the work, which is the present edition, enlarged by a title page, the addition of the first two letters, and more pieces of music, but otherwise from the same setting of type. (OCLC lists only two copies of the 1858 printing only at University of Texas and Stanford University, both with only four plates and nine pieces of music.)

     After a brief introduction in which the author states forcefully that Mexican youth should master the art of dancing, he quickly goes over the basic dancing steps. He then discusses dances meant for two persons (El Wals, La Polka, El Scotish, etc.), noting with some satisfaction that he and Eduardo Gavira invented the dance called “La Camelina.” The discussion then proceeds to dances performed by four or more pairs (Mazurca de Tertulia, Cuadrillas Francesas, etc.) and concludes with a section on historical quadrilles, all of which fall under the major title of “La Guerra de Rusia,” which concerns Napoleon’s invasion. The book concludes with the six plates, to which the text is keyed, and the eleven pieces of piano-forte music, the longest one of which concerns the Russian War. Of the six plates, the first two demonstrate dance steps; plate 3 shows Le Wals; 4 shows contradanza; 5 shows danza habanera; and 6 shows polka.

     The title page states that the book will cost two pesos and be available in Mexico City from Antonio y D. Cristóbal de la Torre and Simon Blanquel. Not only is this text important for its attempt to revive the genteel art of dancing in Mexican youth, but also finds significance in the fact that all the pieces of music in it are new and by Mexican composers. Of particular interest are the pieces entitled “La Camelina” and “Polka Camelina,” both inspired by Dumas fils’ La Dame aux camélias. Ibarra also gives the history of each dance and when it was introduced into Mexico.

     In the sometimes long, tortured history of dance, this book is something of an advance. Given the Church’s historical general opposition to both theater and dance, both art forms had some difficulty making headway in society. By the time of Maximilian’s invasion, however, Mexico had become exposed to various outside influences and in some ways had shaken off its former cultural insularity. In fact, during the Mexican-American War a rebellious faction of the army was named “los polkos” because of their fondness for the dance. Ibarra was instrumental in re-establishing dance as a respectable activity for youth assemblies and for emphasizing the importance of mastering the art for the proper development of the country’s young people, an idea somewhat parallel to the long-held attitudes of European court aristocracy. In some ways, the book was visionary, being published just a few years before the arrival of Maximilian and heavy European influences in Mexican social life. Ironically, Maximilian was hardly in his grave before the book was reissued in 1868.

     Unfortunately, little is known about Ibarra except that he was active as both a dance teacher and inventor of various dances. An excellent, complete copy of an important book.


Sold. Hammer: $1,100.00; Price Realized: $1,347.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: