Commentary, Customs, Events

Typical Dances Honor the Sacred City of Cusco

Dancing with Joy in Cusco (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Dancers dip, step, and twirl around the plaza in bright colors these days to honor their city and region, Cusco. They also represent their institutions which form the city as an array of officially constituted groups, like the rainbow of Cusco’s flag.

Today the very old and important University of St. Anthony the Abbot of Cuzco, UNSAAC, is up. 

The hierarchy of the organizations may parade, vested in ponchos and other symbols of belonging to this city, its culture, and history, while others perform dances from the list of typical dances.

Troupes are judged for their presentation. They compete like at the State band or debate competitions to fit the ideal which the Department and City of Cusco hold up for themselves.

The dances are considered typical because they fit that norm and represent a people inhabiting the different political divisions, the regions of the Department of which the city is the capital.

When a group comes up the announcer names their institution, the name of the dance, and then  the province it comes from as if a fleet of historians and folklorists had spread out over Cusco at some time in the past, before the changes of contemporary modernity, and hovered up all the indigenous dances that were just waiting for them. 

Carnaval de Mollomarka in the Plaza of Cusco (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Carnaval de Mollomarka in the Plaza of Cusco (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Of course, dance did not come all by it self. It was part of a music and context, as well as located in the calendar and in space.  It was not just a series of costumes, movements, and sounds, tied together with a story, a representation embedded in the dance, which the announcer could share as a means of codifying folk culture and ethnography.

This dance is about working in the corn fields and the harvest. This next dance is about the ancestral mummies and so on.

The idea of typical includes this notion of representation where the dance must tell something, a kind of official ethnography about Cusco, its history, its folk (people) and its idealized ways. This is what the students and people from organizations take on when they receive the assignment to form a dance, decide on the dance find someone the train them in the choreography, obtain costumes, and then practice every night for weeks.

They are taking on a codified identity, as they move into the type, a culture which they can tell back to people as well as present to the world, the tourists who come and show Cusco how  marvelous it is to outsiders. They see, in the tourists’ eyes that their city has value and that they should take on the type and give it to outsiders given the magic of their city.

These days of wind up to the great pageant of Into Raymi are very important as a long and prolonged festival. They are the tip of a mountain of performances that children are trained in from when they are little that train them in the code of culture so they can know it, understand its representative theology, and perform it when called on in honor of their city, whose name they consider sacred whether Qosqo or Cusco. Kausachun! 

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