Los Machetes

This is a favorite dance with my 3rd and 4th grade students! We actually just used this as an opportunity to learn about and celebrate Cinco de Mayo last week. One 3rd grader even said they wanted to perform this dance for every Cinco de Mayo.

This is the first year where I have understood the cultural and historical significance of this piece myself, and it made all the difference for my students. We were able to discuss what the dance represents, where it is in Mexico, and go into depth on the significance of the traditional clothing worn during the dance. One student became so excited while we were learning because this dance originated in Jalisco, which is where their father came from! I strongly suggest learning all you can about multicultural folk dances before you teach them to your students. It makes all the difference in the world.

Suggested Grade Levels: 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade

Los Machetes is a folk dance that comes from Jalisco, Mexico. Both men and women participate in this dance, but for the purposes of elementary music folk dancing only the part of the men is learned. The men dance with machetes to demonstrate their prowess with the weapons/tools. The women dance while wearing beautiful, full-skirted dresses. This is done to demonstrate and emphasize the strength and ability of the men and the elegance and grace of the women.

Formation: This piece follows an ABC form. There are three forte, staccato notes that serve as an introduction and conclusion to the piece as well. Students will hold rhythm sticks as representative machetes. They will begin in a circle formation with their classmates.

Begin in starting position and wait for A section. (Starting position: left hand on hip with rhythm stick pointing toward their back; right hand rests rhythm stick on their right shoulder.)

A Section:
Circle right and tap rhythm sticks together for 16 counts; switch and circle left while tapping rhythm sticks together for 16 counts. Stop in place at the end. (32 counts total)

B Section:
Tap rhythm sticks over head, tap sticks under right leg; tap sticks over head, tap sticks under left leg; tap sticks in front, tap sticks behind back; tap sticks together in front 3 times (“cha cha cha” rhythm). Repeat 4 times in total. (32 counts total)
I use this language with my students while we practice: “Over, under, over, under, front, back, cha cha cha.

C Section: Place left hand on hip and twirl right hand rhythm stick in air for 8 counts; switch and repeat with the right hand on hip and the left hand twirling. Keep alternating for a total of 32 counts.

During the last three notes, either have the students bow or strike a strong pose.

Classroom Applications:
–Learning music/dance from another culture
–Improving coordination
–Opportunity to discuss cultural implications of a dance

Recording of Los Machetes
Version of Los Machetes that I share with my students
Version of Los Machetes dance that I use with my students


–Byron Center Charter School. (2016, May 26). 3rd grade los machetes [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5qfDOjgRxs

–Flor. (2008, April 1). Folklorico. History of Folklorico. http://historyoffolklorico.blogspot.com/2008/04/most-people-in-our-society-do-not.html

–Flores, J. (2010, August 24). Mariachi Vargaslos machetes [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VmxagexI28

–Hermetopete. (2009, November 12). Machetes [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXQLd1ZqH9g

Jalisco: Danza de los machetes. (n.d.). América Baila Dance Company. http://americabaila.com/en/portfolio/mexico/

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