Folk Dancing: La Raspa

Jaclyn continues teaching folk dances with La Raspa, a mexican couple dance.

La Raspa is a Mexican folk dance originally from Veracruz, a gulf coast city where shipping brought many goods and cultural innovations across the Atlantic to Mexico. In the 19th century the Czech polka was adopted by many cultures around the world, including Mexico, where traditional Yaqui Indian steps were intermingled with European rhythms. The dance is often improperly referred to as the Mexican Hat Dance, an honor held by El Jarbe Tapatio, the national dance of Mexico.  La Raspa, being much easier to learn and perform, is a favorite for communal gatherings and celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo.

FormationCouples start facing each other randomly spaced around the dance floor.
PositionNo initial contact. This will change to either an elbow swing or shoulder waste position.
StepsScissor step, skip or polka (hop-step-close-step… &1, &2)
Music2/4 meter with the dance steps counted in 4 or multiples of 4.
Teaching HintsThe current choice of the elbow swing in the B part of the dance came about as fewer people knew how to polka. The original dance was done as a polka which is still appropriate for older students and adults who wish to learn. The elbow swings can be used for children or for inter-generational communal dance parties.

Part A: 4 count movement repeated 8 times

  • Starting with the right heel extended in front and the body weight on the left foot, perform three quick scissor steps.  (The left foot replaces the right foot, the right foot replaces the left foot, the left foot replaces the right foot ending with a pause…L, R, L, pause.)  This is a Yaqui Indian adaptation.  The two claps, often added during the pause, are not a traditional Yaqui element, but seem to add pleasure to the performance for some dancers.
  • Repeat the above pattern with the left foot starting in front for the scissor steps.  (R, L, R, pause)
  • Repeat the scissor pattern 6 additional times.  The music clearly says what and when.

Part B: Two 16 count phases for the elbow swings, one 32 count continuation for the polka

  • Hook right elbows and skip in a circle 16 counts.  The change elbows and directions.
  • Hook left elbows and skip in a circle 16 counts.
  • If choosing to do Part B as a polka, each couple takes shoulder/waste position (boy’s hands on the girl’s waste, girl’s hands on the boy’s shoulders.)  The traditional polka revolves clockwise (right shoulder back, rotating 180 degrees for each hop-step-close-step) while traveling counter clockwise around the room.  It takes practice but is an exhilarating accomplishment.

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Jaclyn Brown is originally from Roosevelt, Utah. Jaclyn hails from Utah Valley University’s (UVU) BFA Modern Dance program, where she performed with Contemporary Dance Ensemble, the department’s pre-professional modern performing group, and also choreographed and performed for Synergy Dance Company. Outside of RDT, Jaclyn performs with Monica Campbell & Dancers. As a member of these companies, Jaclyn has worked with nationally recognized artists, such as, Susan Hadley, Damon Rago, John Allen, Doris Hudson de Trujillo, Jennifer Huffman, Omar Olivas, and Mike Esperanza. Beyond her local training, Jaclyn also traveled to Spain for a study abroad in dance (2010). She also appeared in Alex Boye’s music video “Merci Bon Dieu.” Jaclyn was also honored to first perform for Repertory Dance Theatre as a guest artist in “Commonplace” (2013). Jaclyn is thrilled to be joining the company for her sixth season and would like to thank her husband, family, and friends for their unwavering support.


RDT appreciates the generous funding provided by the Utah Legislature and the Utah Board of Education that help make our Arts-in-Education Programs possible in Utah’s Public Schools.