On any given day in Cusco, you might turn a street corner and come face to face with a parade.
These parades can vary in size from just a few dozen participants to several hundred. They’re often accompanied by marching bands and crowds of spectators enjoying the show. I’m usually not sure why exactly the parades are happening, but they seem to celebrate special occasions like religious or national holidays. Regardless, the stars of the show are always the dancers.
Dancers typically make up the bulk of the parades and are quite the sight to see. Men, women, and children dress in beautiful traditional outfits. It makes for a mesmerizing show of bright colors, swirling skirts, and synchronized movement. When I saw my first parade, I was impressed by the perfectly coordinated dancing. Moving in synchronized lines down a street while also twirling and dancing for an extended period of time seems very challenging. I was particularly in awe of how well the children performed. After two months in Cusco, I now know that part of the reason the children are so skilled is because they’re dancing all the time!
I’ve learned that this style of traditional dancing is not just for parades but is a key part of many gatherings in Cusco. At the schools where we teach, our students constantly practice and dance for school and community events. Often dance practices take place on the courts that we use for our classes, so we’ve been lucky to witness students learn and rehearse their dances.
We recently were invited to an evening of dance performances at one of our schools.
Upon arrival, I was struck by what a joyful and bonding experience it was. The school courtyard was packed with families socializing and eating. When the dances began, we got to see our students and their parents dressed up and performing. It was truly an event for the whole community, and the dancers and spectators alike had a great time. The smiles of pride on the faces of our students as the exited the dance floor after their fantastic performance were priceless.
For our students, learning and performing traditional Peruvian dances are part of their daily lives, and they seem like experts. One of their teachers insisted that the next time a performance comes around, Adrie and I will have to join! Before that happens, our students will have to become our teachers and show us a move or two.