The Art of the Quinceañera
By Cheryl Q.
TRADITIONS, PAGEANTRY AND MUSIC: THE QUINCEAÑERA IS AN IMPORTANT CELEBRATION IN THE HISPANIC COMMUNITY
Quinceañera (pronounced keen-see-ahn-yair-ah) traditions have a long history dating back to the Aztec Indians and are very symbolic. The custom celebrates the 15th birthday of a Hispanic girl who is leaving childhood behind and now is assuming the responsibilities of womanhood. It is very religious in nature beginning with a Catholic mass where the Quinceañera reaffirms her faith in God. Family is important in this rite of passage.
Some key people who may be acknowledged during the reception or may be introduced as a part of the entrance are:
- Abuelos (ah-boo-ay-lows) – Grandparents
- Padrinos (pah-dree-knows) – Godparents, whose spiritual responsibility to the Quinceañera ends.
- Patrones (pah-trown-ace) – Sponsors, who are people who contribute to the success of the celebration.
The Quinceaños (“fifteen years” – one of the three terms used to identify the celebration—see if you can find the other two in this article) is a very elaborate event (even more than some weddings), is very expensive to put on (thus the importance of the Patrones), is usually a formal affair, and may revolve around a theme. Since this is such a major event, and involves extensive, wedding-style preparation on the DJ’s end, I typically charge the same as I do for a wedding.
The Quinceañera (also referring to the guest of honor) is dressed in a princess-like ball gown complete with petticoats and hoops. She has an Honor Court consisting of Damas (dah-mas) and Chambelanes (cham-bay-lahn-ace) similar to bridesmaids and groomsmen. Her escort is a Chambelan. While past tradition dictated 14 couples in the Honor Court (one couple for each year of the Quinceañera’s life), current trends are toward seven couples (one person for each year).
A number of traditions are usually part of the event, including the following.
Crowning – This is usually done by the mother and can be done at the church or reception. The crown signifies that the Quinceañera is a princess in the eyes of God. It also signifies the responsibilities she is now assuming. If your client says the crowning will be done at the church, you don’t have to do anything else. If it is going to be done at the reception, then ask who is going to do it, when it will be done and if any special music is required.
Changing of the Shoes – It is thought that up until this time, the Quinceañera hasn’t been able to walk in high-heeled shoes. It isn’t unusual for her to wear flats during the religious ceremony. At some point during the reception, her shoes will be changed from flats to high heels. This is done by her father, brother, padrino or other important male figure in the Quinceañera’s life. This signifies leaving behind childhood and entering adulthood. Special music is usually played during this tradition. Your client will let you know if they are going to do the Changing of the Shoes, who will do it, and when.
Presentation of the Last Doll – This is the last doll the Quinceañera will ever receive as a child. There are a number of ways the presentation can be made. There is a dance with the doll that may or may not be done. If the Quinceañera is not going to dance with the doll, I suggest that her grandmother present the doll to her.
The Dance (El Vals) – The highlight of the entire celebration is a well-rehearsed and choreographed dance involving the entire Honor Court. This is one of the first things the Quinceañera does as an adult. To be prepared, I strongly suggest that find out who the dance instructor is and go to some of the rehearsals. This is also a great way to cultivate new clients and meet an important vendor who can send business your way. The dance instructor may provide the music for the dance (or dances, if there will be a second special dance). They may also help with the entrance.
In each of these traditions, it’s important to let the guests know what’s going on and why.
Latin music and how it is used in the event is a regional matter. For example, in Arizona salsa is only something that is eaten, while in Miami it is something that is danced to. Rancheras, Bandas, Boleros, Cumbias, Nortena, and Corridos are some of the styles popular in the western states, while Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton, Bachata, and Reggae are styles most requested on the east coast. Promo Only has “Tropical” (East Coast) and “Regional” (West Coast) music collections available, and TM Studios has incorporated both on one disc. Latin Grammy CDs are also a good source for a wide variety of popular music. The DJ Intelligence Top 200 has lists of wedding music that can also be used for entrances and dances with parents. Keep it age-appropriate when helping your client select their music. Interestingly, most of the requests I receive are first by type of music (such as Salsa, Bachata), then by artist, rather than song title.
A typical order of events at the reception is as follows:
- Entrance – announcing the Honor Court and Quinceañera (special songs)
- Dance/Crowning//Changing of Shoes (order can be changed) (special songs)
- Specialty Dance (optional) (special songs)
- Father-Daughter Dance (special songs)
- Last Doll Presentation (possibly special song)
- Thank You’s (usually done by Parents and Quinceañera)
- Cake Cutting (may need “Las Mañanitas,” a traditional birthday song)
- Candle Lighting or similar (may need special song)
IMPRESS YOUR CLIENT AND HELP YOURSELF
When you impress your client, you have the opportunity to earn big bucks. Do whatever you can to help them make the event a success. Sit with them face to face and help them plan the reception. Use the correct terminology—call the Quinceañera’s escort a Chambelan and the grandparents Abuelos. Some of the traditions have gotten lost over time, so suggest them and let your client know what they mean. Work with them on the dancing and music suggestions. Go to the dance rehearsals. And lastly, give your client “stuff’ such as music selection lists or a handy checklist of items they might need for the day.
As most of the Quinceañeras are Catholic celebrations, call your local Catholic churches and ask about advertising in their bulletins. Go to Mexican restaurants and leave some business cards or fliers. You might ask if they know any Quinceañera dance instructors. If so, call them, as well as your local dance studios. Partner with local photographers who do “Quinces.” And there are supermarket bulletin boards that are usually free.
Have fun with Quinceañeras, and remember, when you participate in one, you are a significant part of a family milestone that will be remembered for a lifetime.
Filed Under: Issues from 2010, Performing
Leave a comment