Peru dances

Peru – Dances.

Through movements, coordination and choreographed sequences of body movements, dance communicates with the music and is a unique source of expression in Peruvian cultures. The different communities of Cuzco express their identity and culture through their dance, with a history spanning from well before the Spanish invasion. Differing regions are recognised for their own sequences of movements, costumes and traditions. All year round, fiestas are celebrated in Cuzco, in the city and in its provinces. The city of Cuzco is particularly recognized for its dance and its large celebrations.

The most well known and popular dances–those which are found in every fiesta– are the following:

  1. Dansaq is performed for the feast of Corpus Christi especially and in front of the Virgin of Carmen and the Virgin of Rosario. The dancers wear ch’ullus (Andean knit caps with ear pieces), circular skirts, bells on the knees and sandals. It is said to represent the male goats at rut and they are said to mate with a different woman every night of Corpus. They claim that on those nights the sins that are committed are not seen in the eyes of God.


  1. Cápac Chuncho is a war dance of Inca origin, portraying the years of battles between the inhabitants of the jungle lowlands. The dancers wear large headdresses (as hats of helmets worn on the head) made from the colorful plumes of macaws along with a veil of fine metal mesh. The choreography is very impressive as the men demonstrate their valor in fighting as part of their customs.


  1. Cápac Colla, represents the travelling merchants from the high plateau called Altiplano near Lake Titicaca, who would come to Cuzco to exchange produce. This is a prestigious dance whereby the costuming is characterized by a rectangular head covered with sequins and a white, woven mask. The imilla (young woman in Quechua) a Colla maiden, is particularly elegant.


  1. Cachampa depicts a demonstration of fine warriors preparing for battle. The costumes are made of a Tablacasaca (a kind of sweater or large coat) that comes down to the knees. It is made of different colors and also has very colorful decorations made from special, detailed, embroidery. It is thought that when going to war, that warriors should be well dressed, to separate themselves from the enemy and show their superiority. The movements of this dance are sudden and strong. In almost all the choreographies the dancers demonstrate battle.

Dancer Waiting to Dance

The city of Cuzco celebrates large fiestas all year round. It has a calendar of feasts where all the feasts and festivals are laid out and planned by date along with all the activities carried out through the year.

All of this preparation is an immense task as Cuzco’s celebrations represent the traditions and ways of life of the City. During the year, there are dances performed as part of the celebration of cargos (obligations to sponsor a feast), important dates such as Corpus Christi, Carnival, the dance troupes for the feasts of the Virgin of Candelaria, Ccoylurrity, the Lord of Huanca, and many more. There are also the various anniversaries of important institutions which are celebrated throughout the year.


Waiting to Perform on the Avenida El Sol

From the month of June, the annual round begins. The largest festivities take place in June, including the central day when Cuzco celebrates its anniversary. During this month, many competitions are organized to this key month. Dances are performed in the Plaza de Armas, the streets and the main square, demonstrating the diverse choreographies, costuming, customs and the greetings they have prepared, to the public and the judges.

The public gathers in large numbers to watch the dancers perform, thronging their way through the outline of the plaza as if the spectators were cloth waiting to receive the new and vibrant thread of the dancers. It thrills the public to see these dances performed well.


Mask in Place

Other dances are presented in competitions between high schools, universities, markets and other institutions and organizations. Practically the entire city of Cuzco will dance through the streets at some time. The people love these exciting performances and celebrations as they are an important part of the city’s culture. A such, during this time lots of tourists visit from all over the world.

The main celebration day in Cuzco falls on the 24th of June during the celebration of Inti Raymi, which is the Feast of the Sun. This performance begins in Sacsayhuaman, above the city, and then comes into the Main Square, before returning to Sacsayhuaman. These rituals thank the Sun God, where locals and tourists come out to see the staging of the Inti Raymi pageant, which portrays representative dances of each of the four quarters of the Inca Empire. Among these are the Huaylas and the Cara Chunchu dances of the Jungle.

Dancing Together

The performing institutions who take charge of organizing and carrying out the festive calendar are the Centro Qosqo of Native Art and Filigranas Peruanas in conjunction with EMUFEC (the Municipal agency responsible for celebrations in Cuzco).




Celebration is vital to the culture of the Andes and a key part of the Peruvian music tradition. Some celebrations extend back to the time of the Incas and some traditions were brought about by the Spanish, and today we see the fantastic fusion of the two cultures. This Peru music and dance tour is a great way to learn about some of the most typical Andean dances and offers you the chance to enjoy a folkloric show while savouring some of Peru’s renowned cuisine.

This is a fabulous Cusco music tour for those who love to delve into dance, costumes, or are lovers of Andean music.

Our guide will pick you up from your hotel and together you will walk to one of the many shops that rent traditional festival clothing. This special clothing is hired to school children and adults alike for the local festivals held throughout the city and in all of the schools, especially during the month of June or the Month of Cusco. Your guide will explain the history of the traditional dress you chose, from a few of the regions and the background of the dances. Next, you will visit a traditional Peruvian music store and learn about the origin of some of the instruments used today including the pan flute and the 10-stringed charango; a small ukulele-like instrument originally made from the shell of an armadillo. Our final stop for the evening will be a dinner show. This Peruvian music and dance show will allow you to experience the festive tones of the Andean flutes, the colourful costuming and culture of Peru. This Cusco tour is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Peru music and dance.


Andean Music, the Music of the Incas


Andean communities have a powerful musical tradition inherited from the Inca Empire. The Inca society was based on collective effort and their success outweighed the individual’s. This is the case of music in the Inca civilization, musicians joined to create music through cooperation and support. The purpose of music in this society was primarily spiritual and associated with religious rituals and wars, usually accompanied by singing that was high pitched and nasal. The arrival of the Spanish in South America started a process of political and cultural assimilation; a cultural transformation of a pagan society into Catholicism. To facilitate the transition, music was transferred to the new Catholic rituals.

The Incas used the word “torque” to describe dance, music and singing, though this word is Quechua meaning “song”, they did not differentiate among the three but were interconnected terms. Their music was pentatonic, based in the combination of five notes: re, fa, so, la and do. Their use of music can be grouped into three categories: religious, warrior and agricultural.

Music reached through to all of the corners of the empire, social classes and activities. There were countless songs, tunes and dances which were related to most human activities and were represented by gestures, movement and costumes. Most dances were related to rituals and agriculture. There were specific dances to affect the weather; to attract rain, repel frost and hail to name a few. Dances represented the life of domestic and wild animals as well as birds. Dance and songs were also used to report historical facts, myths and legends of the origin of the Incas.

The objective of agricultural, livestock and warrior dances were to maintain a good relationship with the divinities who they believed helped to bring successful crops, healthy livestock and victory in battle to the people.


Musical instruments

The Incas and early Andean civilizations had two types of musical instrument, wind and percussion. String musical instruments were introduced later by the Spanish and adapted into their musical repertoire.


Wind Instruments

Wind instruments consist of panpipes and flutes. Within the panpipes there are ocarinas, antaras, zampoñas or siku, phukuna and rondador.

The siku (Aymara and Quechua) or zampoña (Spanish) originated in the highlands of the Andes near Lake Titicaca. The pipes were originally made of a light reed called songo that grows in the banks of Lake Titicaca. The zampoña has two separate rows of pipes, open at one end and closed at the other end. There are six pipes per row horizontally arranged with the open end at the top. They are held together by a string that goes between the pipes and around them. There are different sizes of zampoñas. Malta is the smallest, ika is the small, siku is medium size, sanka is medium-large size, semitoyo is large, and toyo is the largest size of zampoña.

The oldest antaras have been found in burial graves in archeological sites in Nazca. It consists of one row of pipes arranged by size forming a triangle. The cylindrically shaped pipes were made of clay and were held together with threads of cotton or wool. Today antaras are made of bamboo.

The rondador is similar to the antara, it is made of one row of pentagonically arranged pipes. It is believed that this instrument originated in the northern territories of the Inca Empire, in the north of Peru and Ecuador.

The flute family includes mosheño, quena, pinkillo, tarka and ocarina.

The quena is the oldest known wind musical instrument in the continent. There were made out of clay, stone or bone. Today quenas are made of wood or bamboo. The quena is a flute open on both ends with six finger holes in the front and one in the back. It has a wide range of sounds which represent different emotions depending on the combination of notes used.

The ocarina is an enclosed flute with four to twelve finger holes, some have eight finger holes on the top part and two in the bottom part. They were originally made of clay or bones.

The pututu was a trumpet made from a large seashell or a hollow cow horn. It was not used to play music but mostly used for communicating an important arrival and was also used in religious ceremonies.

Pinkillo is found throughout the Andes. It is made of cane, bamboo, bone or tree branches. The pinkillo can measure up to 1mm to 20cm and can have from two to six finger holes, it is played with one hand leaving the other one free to play another instrument, usually the drum.


  •                       Percussion instruments


There are many types of percussion instruments used in Andean music. Among them are the bombo, caña de agua, wankar, chullus or chajchas and the caja or tinya.

The Bombo is a large wooden drum made from a hollow tree trunk and covered in animal skin (llama or sheep on the top and cow at the bottom), varying in size.

Wancara is a large round drum covered with animal skin from end to end which produces a deep bass sound. The Wancara is much larger than the bombo.

Tynya is a smaller wancara and is believed to have been played only by women in the Inca Empire.

Chajchas are also known as Chullus. It is a rattle made of dried goat hooves which are tied into a ribbon, they are also made with seashells, seeds, hardwood, stones or beads. The sound made when the chajcha is shaken, resembles that of wind and rain.

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