A few weeks ago, I was able to see a screening of Sigo Siendo a great documentary about musical traditions of Peru thanks to one of our super awesome PC Peru staff members (check out a few the trailer here). The documentary was
extremely interesting and gave me insight into how vastly diverse Peruvian music can be. One part of the film highlighted a particular dance/musical tradition that I thought was pretty unique and that was the Scissor Dance of Ayacucho or Danza de las Tijeras. If I hadn’t had been at that documentary, I’m not even sure if I would have even heard of or seen this dance because my region of Amazonas and the dance’s ancestral home of Ayacucho are worlds apart (culturally and geographically). And since I’m your proverbial neighborhood PCV, ya’ll get the privilege of learning about it too.
So the danza de las tijeras is native to a region of central Peru called Ayacucho and it is
actually recognized by UNESCO in their Intangible Cultural Heritage list for its deep cultural value. It has it’s origins from pre-hispanic priests/shamans called tusuq laykas (this is Quechua so don’t ask me how to pronounce that) and during the process of colonization it came to be known as Supaypa Wasin Tusuq – roughly translated as “the dancing devil in the house” because the Spanish saw this tradition as anti-Catholic and not of God – surprise, surprise. As with many other ancient Peruvian traditions, the native people eventually found a way to mix the old with the new and blended these dances with Catholic traditions and began to perform them at Catholic ceremonies (syncretism for all ya’ll with a fancy, big city vocabulary).
Now why is it called the scissor dance, you ask? Well, because during the dance, the performer (known as the danzaq) is holding scissor like instrument in their hands which they rhythmically clink as they are performing. There are legends that state that the the sounds are meant to mimic sounds that come from a lagoon called Yauruviri. Others state that the clinking sounds are meant to invoke the memory of how the people of Peru were brutally exploited by the Spanish colonizers by forced labor in the mines and that the sounds are mimicking the sounds of digging miners.
I’m sure by reading does not make it easy to conceptalize what the dance actually looks like so, of course, for your viewing pleasure, here is a good quality YouTube video that shows the dance in all its cultural heritage glory.
The cool thing about this screening of Sigo Siendo was that afterwards they had a live performance and the dancers who were highlighted in the documentary were there to perform. I took two videos that I linked here and here if you would like to see exactly what inspired this post. I felt super privileged to see this dance because often times, living in a larger, less rural site, I feel like I don’t get a lot of these types of cultural experiences. And because there are no Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in the region of Ayacucho, I doubt that a lot of other volunteers have been able to see this dance performed live. So ya’ll back home need to be considering yourselves doublie privileged, ya heard me? I hope you all found the dance as interesting as I did!
Anywho, until next time guys.