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5 typical popular dances in Cusco’s festivities

Cusco’s dances date back centuries and have also been renewed over time, such as the traditional dances of the chunchus, the ukukus and kachampa. Others appeared in the Colonial era, blending European and Andean elements to create incredible dances such as the negritos, the zambitos, the collas, the chujchu and others.

Most of these dances are performed during patron saint festivities, carnival, and religious festivities, exhibiting the great vitality of Cusco’s culture. The following are the five dances most frequently performed at festivities in Cusco:

Qhapaq Negro
Qapac Negro, which in Quechua means “rich black man”, is a collective mestizo dance created in the early days of the republic. Its characters represent the black slave and the slavery that existed during the Colonial period, with lyrics about their suffering sung to the Virgin and their devotion to her.

History of the Qhapaq Negro Dance
It is said that black slaves were brought in ancient times from the coast and from Bolivia, to work in the gold and silver mines in Paucartambo, and some brought with them their tradition of worshipping the Virgen del Carmen from Lima.

Characters in the Qhapaq Negro Dance
The dance is made up of a black king, a couple of children and two parallel rows of black soldiers headed by their respective captains. The dance is divided among the dancers, who recite their lyrics and the instrumental group to play the music (harp, quena, violin, accordion, and drums).

The contredanse is a dance about farmlands in which the leader of the troupe introduces the other dancers to the tasks in the field. However, this dance is also seen as a parody of the ballroom dances held by the Spanish elite during the colonial days, and this makes sense considering its name of “contredanse.”

History of the Contredanse
The Contredanse has a history full of triumphs and surprises, having won prizes such as the Department Folklore Dances contest in 1968 and the Inti Raymi Festival in 1991. Its troupe was also the first to be granted its own place in the town and the first to be incorporated, becoming a legal entity registered with the National Institute of Culture (1989).

Characters of the Contredanse
The characters in the Contredanse include the machu (leader), dancers who wear masks made of wire mesh, and a musical group of violins, accordions, quenas and a drums.

The Wallata dance represents the courtship of the wallata (male) birds and the wachacha (female) birds by imitating their movements in a choreography. Dancers take their inspiration from the birds’ cries, movements, behavior, coupling, and the dominance of the male. The female dancers perform elegant movements to represent flirtation.

History of the Wallata Dance
The origin of the dance is intimately linked to the farmer in the fields, related to the surrounding nature and wildlife that includes the wallatas, web-footed birds that live in the wetlands and totora reed beds close to these communities.

Characters in the Wallata dance
The male and female dancers represent the courting of the Wallata bird. Men dress in short pants, white shirts, with a short red poncho, a chullo, an ojota sandals and a round hat. Women dress in a wide black skirt with a red border, a short skirt or ikhuna on top, a red jacket, a round hat, an ojota sandals and a shawl or lliclla.

Cholo Qorilazo
The Cholo Qorilazo dance represents the joy of the villagers in the high Andean areas of the Cusco region, in the Province of Chumbivilcas where this beautiful dance was created. It also symbolizes the happiness that the cholo qorilazo feels at having his woman by his side, accompanying him and his faithful horse.

History of the Cholo Qorilazo dance
The word Qorilazo is a fusion of Qori, which means gold or golden in Quechua, and of lazo, which is the Spanish word for lasso. Thus, the dance is about the cholo (or Andean man) with the golden lasso, referring to the local villagers and their tasks or hobbies.

Characters in the Cholo Qorilazo dance
The dance is performed by men and women accompanied by string instruments such as the guitar, the charango, and the mandolin.

Carnaval Cusqueño
The Carnaval Cusqueño dance, a dance performed during the carnival festivities season, is one of the most popular dances in Cusco, with beautifully elegant steps and rhythm that represent young people in love.

The main attraction of the choreography is the tree-chopping sequence, also known as Q’ashwa or more commonly called Yunza, in which young single men dance around a tree festooned with gifts, colorful streamers, balloons, blankets, etc. The objective is to begin chopping the tree down little by little until it falls.

Characters of the Carnaval Cusqueño
As mentioned earlier, this dance is for groups of young men and women. Women’s costumes include brightly colored skirts, white blouses, tall white hats, plaited hair, and a white scarf. Men wear a white shirt, a white kerchief, a black hat, black pants and waistcoat, black shoes, and a white scarf. Both men and women are draped in streamers and have flour on their faces.

This list mentions only a few of the many dances that you can see during your visit to Cusco. Discover them on your travels to this wonderful city and while you are there, visit Machu Picchu aboard our PeruRail Vistadome train! Get your tickets here.

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