Waldeen (Waldeen Falkenstein) (1913–1993) By Schwall, Elizabeth
For more than half a century, Waldeen made important contributions to modern dance in Mexico. Along with Anna Sokolow, Waldeen has been considered one of the ‘founding mothers’ of Mexican modern dance. She worked to adapt foreign modern dance techniques and styles to reflect Mexican sensibilities, culture, society, politics, and contemporary artistic currents. As a dance theorist, Waldeen believed in socially committed art that reflected upon the society which created and consumed it. Putting theory into practice, Waldeen studied Mexico’s history and present-day realities, and through a process of collaboration with Mexican-born artists, consolidated a nationalist modern dance aesthetic that resonated with the visual and musical arts of the 1930s and 1940s. In this way, Waldeen gave modern dance, until then identified as a North American or European art form, the national credence it had previously lacked. Through her writings, choreography, performance and teaching, she influenced a whole generation of Mexican dancers and choreographers, including Guillermina Bravo (founder of the Ballet Nacional de México, an important centre for teaching modern and contemporary dance) and Amalia Hernández (founder of the Ballet Folklórico de México, a world-renowned company which interprets and performs Mexico’s most important folk and regional dances).