Music and dance are the primordial elements for foreigners to experience the first feel of a different culture, or the take- it-or-leave-it emotion, that feeling that makes you think “Wow, I really love those people!”. After the language attraction in fact, rhythms have the task to tell the process of culture building embedding the different nature and origins of movements and melody.
Peruvian music and dance are made of a blend of Andean, African and Spanish roots where, although the regional differences, a characteristic touch is often left by the use of wind Andean instruments. The most traditional dances of Peru are la marinera and el huayño.
La Marinera Nortena, is a Peruvian courtship dance, originally from the northern coastal areas of Peru, but now popular all over Peru. The dance is full of flirtatious energy but is also elegant, romantic and graceful. Characterised by fast foot work, small skips and running steps, with the upper body held upright as in Flamenco, the dancers travel round the space at speed, the man in playful pursuit of the woman. Women wear voluminous skirts which they constantly swish and hitch up to reveal bare feet, and carry handkerchiefs as props which they wave in a tantalising fashion at their partners. Men are dressed in suits, distinguished in their smart shoes and hats which they also use as props. Throughout the dance, the couple show off to each other without making contact but periodically come together in passionate embraces.
The huayño is a couple dance of the Quechua and Aymara Indians but is more of a rural dance than an urban dance such as La Marinera. The dancers wear the brightly colored traditional Peruvian Indian costumes and hats – skirts for the women and ponchos for the men. Movement consists of an agile but vigorous stamping of the feet with frequent turning. The couples do not make much direct contact with each other, but again it is a lively, cheerful dance.
I interviewed Josephine Leask, a London based dance critic and dance and cultural studies lecturer at the London Studio Centre who gave us her view on those bursting with vibes dances.
VG. Is the huayno very similar to any European dance?
JL. The Huayno is similar to European folk dances as it is vigorous with a lot of skipping and stamping. It has less complicated steps than some European forms but is much more flirtatious and spirited.
VG. What are the main Peruvian, Latin and Andean aspects that come through for a European dance expert like you?
JL. The Marinera is a mixture of Spanish rhythms and styles (namely Flamenco), Moorish and Andean seen in the stamping, quick turning, and held carriage of the upper body. The playfulness between the dancers and the use of props and costume give it more of a coastal flavour. While the Huayno style is purer – possibly based on Inca ritualistic stamping, and has less variety of steps. It does not include Latin influences which suggests that it was invented before the Spanish conquest of Peru and is an ancient authentic dance of the mountain- dwelling Peruvian Indians.
VG. How do you believe this folkloric dance can be brought to light in the UK?
JL. Visiting dance companies from Peru could present these Peruvian dances in theatres such as Sadler’s Wells or as part of a Peruvian cultural festival or exchange programme to promote understanding and appreciation of these lively, colourful folk-dance forms.
If you are looking to travel to Peru and discover the country, do not forget to download the Rosetta Stone Spanish travel app with all the essentials.
Special thanks to Josephine Leak for dances descriptions and interview. Josephine currently writes for londondance.com and danceinsider.com .