Customs

Traditional Dances in Cuzco

Dancing in Cuzco

Through movements, coordination, and choreographed sequences of bodies dance communicates the dancers feelings as well as a lot of information. The different communities of Cuzco express their identity and culture through their dance, and this has a very long history here, from well before the Spanish came. On seeing a dance you can recognize through the movements and the costumes where the dance is from and what the regions tradition and customs are like.

All year round fiestas are celebrated in Cuzco, in the city and in its provinces. Many organizations participate in the fiestas as do many people. The city of Cuzco is particularly recognized for its dance and its large celebrations.

Up in the Air
Up in the Air

The most well known and popular dances–those which are found in every fiesta– are the following:

1. Dansaq which is performed for the feast of Corpus Christi especially and in front of the Virgin of Carmen and the Virgin of Rosario. The dancers wear ch’ullus (Andean knit caps with ear pieces), circular skirts, bells on the knees and sandals. It is said to represent the male goats at rut. They are said to mate with a different woman every night of Corpus. They claim that on those nights their sins are not counted.

2. Cápac Chuncho, which is a war dance of Inca origin. In it are portrayed the constant battles with the inhabitants of the jungle lowlands as well as trade with them. The dancers wear large headdresses (as hats of helmets worn on the head) made from the colorful plumes of macaws along with a veil of fine metal mesh. Their choreography is very impressive since the men will show their valor in fighting as part of their customs.

3. Cápac Colla, which represents the travelling merchants from the high plateau called Altiplano near Lake Titicaca. They would come to Cuzco to exchange produce. This is a prestigious dance whose costume is characterized by a rectangular head covering that is covered with sequins and a white, woven mask. The imilla (young woman in Quechua) a Colla maiden, is particularly elegant.

4. Cachampa which depicts warriors. It shows the energy of each warrior as he prepares for battle. This dance’s costume is made of a tablacasaca (a kind of sweater or large coat) that comes down to the knees. It is made of different colors and also has very colorful decorations made from special embroidery with lots of detail. They thought that when going to war they should go well dressed, in order to separate themselves from the enemy and show their superiority. The movements of this dance are sudden and strong. In almost all the choreographies the dancers demonstrate battle.

Dancer Waiting to Dance
Dancer Waiting to Dance

The city of Cuzco celebrates large fiestas year round. It has a calendar of feasts where all the feasts and festivals are laid out and planned by date along with all the activities carried out through the year.

All this is an immense task since Cuzco’s celebrations represent the traditions and ways of life of the City. During the year there are dances performed as part of the celebration of cargos (obligations to sponsor a feast), important dates such as Corpus Christi, Carnival, the dance troupes for the feasts of the Virgin of Candelaria, Ccoylurrity, the Lord of Huanca, etc. There are also the various anniversaries of important institutions.

Waiting to Perform on the Avenida El Sol
Waiting to Perform on the Avenida El Sol

From the month of June the annual round begins. The largest festivities take place in June, including the central day when Cuzco celebrates its anniversary. During this month many competitions are organized to honor this key month. Dances are performed in the Plaza de Armas, the main square, having danced their way down the city’s streets. As they go they show their different choreographies, and the greetings they have prepared, whose end is to openly show their customs and joys to the public and the judges.

The public gathers in large numbers to watch the dancers perform thronging their way and the outline of the plaza, as if the spectators were cloth waiting to receive the new and vibrant thread of the dancers. It thrills the public to see these dances performed well.

Mask in Place
Mask in Place

Other dances are presented in competitions between high schools, universities, markets, and other institutions and organizations. Practically the entire city of Cuzco will dance through the streets at some time. They people live these exciting performances and celebrations as an important part of the city’s life. But it is also during this time that a lot of tourists visit from all over the world and they take away their impressions of the city’s customs and culture through its feasts.

The main day for Cuzco is the 24th of June when it celebrates Inti Raymi, which is the Feast of the Sun. This performance begins in Sacsayhuaman, above the city, and then comes into the Main Square, before returning to Sacsayhuaman. There rituals to thank the Sun God are carried out. For this day locals and tourists come out to see the staging of the Inti Raymi pageant, which portrays representative dances of each of the four quarters of the Inca Empire. Among these are the Huaylas, the Cara Chunchu, dances of the Jungle.

Dancing Together
Dancing Together

The performing institutions who take charge of organizing and carrying out the festive calendar are the Centro Qosqo of Native Art and Filigranas Peruanas in conjunction with EMUFEC (the Municipal agency responsible for celebrations in Cuzco).

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