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Andes Meet Hip Hop, Break Dance in Cuzco

Ukukus Break Dance Crew (Photo: Brayan Coraza Morveli)

Break dance is an extreme sport, because it involves all the body and incurs lots of risk. It consists of a series of steps and turns that involve the hands, feet, as well as all the rest of you. You do them to the rhythm of music. All over the world people do break dance. They have many different styles and show great creativity.

Cuzco’s break dance scene does not depart from this much. Many youth practice break dance here. Just like in other countries they get together and they give themselves a name for their group so that they will be easily identifiable.

Training Before Breakdance (Photo: Brayan Coraza Morveli)
Training Before Breakdance (Photo: Brayan Coraza Morveli)

Some of us try to innovate. We identify ourselves according to where we are from. In this case, we call ourselves Ukukus. This name comes from Quechua, the language of our parents and grandparents. It stands for the Andean bear as well as a clown that appears in the dance troupes found in our feasts. He makes funny moves and speaks in a falsetto to make people laugh and push boundaries.

Unlike this, we also call ourselves b-boys and b-girls, just like people all over the world. This does not change at all. However, we like them, give ourselves special, individual names–we call them chapas, nicknames–so we can be identified easily in competitions.

Head Spin (Photo Brayan Coraza Morveli)
Head Spin (Photo: Brayan Coraza Morveli)

Many dancers look for chapas in English. They are motivated by the internet and Youtube, where you find lots of videos of break dance. They are fascinated by the names of the great dancers.

Still many of us will look for names in our mother language, Quechua, to take a small piece of it and show it off with the quality of our dancing.

Some of the groups in Cuzco try to imitate groups from other countries, both in style and in ability. In the group to which I belong, Ukukus, we try to do our own thing with break dance. We try to do an Andean break dance. Even if this is difficult, we are going down that path.

Breakdance in Cuzco (Photo: Brayan Coraza Morveli)
Breakdance in Cuzco (Photo: Brayan Coraza Morveli)

A few months ago we went to a casting call for a television program called “Peru Tiene Talent” (Peru Has Talent). There we were able to demonstrate our goal of fusing Andean music with Hip Hop, while using traditional items of clothing. We also used some steps from our traditional dances along with the turns made in break dance.

Many groups like mine try to practice and get better. We do this in order to compete in battles, or contests, that are held year round. Each group invites b-boys and b-girls to come and learn about break dance, practice, and then compete. What can be better than this. It helps us have better health and avoid other things like drug addiction. Doing sport is very healthful.

In any case, this sport is very impressive. Just by seeing it performed an audience frees its spirit and is amazed. They let loose a lot of applause.

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3 Comments

  1. This is cool. Good to see another piece on the breakdance culture in Cuzco. I dig the idea of fusing traditional elements with breakdancing and definitely appreciate the use of Quechua for chapas as well. I’ll definitely look out for Ukukus.

    There have been similar things happening with fusion in S. Korea as well. By integrating traditional dress, masks and instruments into their set, many seem to be exploring/experimenting with traditional forms and breakdancing forms. If you’re curious, here are a few examples:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5CtkRxpnJo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3ZFxqMGx5c
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uAkakRFs8s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRnJ_jpxv2g
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaJtZ0znjQs

    1. Marco, Muchas gracias por el enlace. Ya había conocido el video y me encanta reproducir el enlace en nuestra página, aunque cabe mencionar que por lo regular no aceptamos comentarios con enlaces. En este caso hacemos una excepción para enfatizar la cantidad variada y de gran calidad del baile tradicional cusqueño. Un saludo y un abrazo fraternal con nuestro agradecimiento.

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