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Land of winds > Rhythms and styles > Style | Issue 03. Jan.-Feb.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Danzante and tonada

Danzante and tonada
The danzante is a ceremonial act, the main character of this act and the rhythm performed to accompany both. The ceremony usually takes place during the Corpus Christi feast (variable date) and the Three Wise Men celebration (6th of January). It is widely spread throughout the central area of the Ecuadorian Sierra, especially in the Pujilí canton (Cotopaxi province), whose Danzante (the character) is really very famous.
The rhythm is performed with drums and pingullos (pinkillos) in 6/8 time. The beats of the drums mark a slow, calm cadence which is in accordance with the pace of the Danzante.
This character is richly dressed in very elegant and expensive clothes with silver coins and small mirrors hanging from them. He has a very big head adorned with similar mirrors and feathery crests. Due to the heavy weight he bears upon his shoulders (his head need to be held by several bearers known as umacuidas, “head-care providers”), the Danzante neither is able to perform a fast choreography nor a complex one: the only steps he has to perform are a semi-zapateado (foot stamping) with steps forward, backward, sideways and in circle. Being Danzante is both an honour and a privilege in any community, but the chosen one usually ends up being ruined or gets into debt for taking on the cost associated with those clothes and adornments.
Supposedly, the danzante as rhythm could derive from ancient qapaq sitwa of the Incas, though most Ecuadorian musicologists agree on the fact that it would most probably be a pre-Incan genre which, as many others in Ecuador, suffered the influence of Incan patterns. The danzante would be part of a thanksgiving ritual where people are grateful for hearty corn crop and a tushuq or Danzante officiates as “the rain priest”. Some scholars (such as Gerardo Guevara Viteri) believe that taking the danzante as the starting point, mestizo people would have created the rhythm known as tonada maintaining its minor tone but making its tempo livelier. The tonada is currently performed by mestizo and native bands and plays a major part in any popular celebration.

Danzante, in “Los ritmos del Ecuador”, by Ballet Andino Ecuador [es].
Danzante, in Ballet Folklórico del Ecuador [es].
A piece of news on the Danzante of Pujilí, Corpus Christi 2007 [es].
Characters of the Danzante ceremony at the Corpus Christi feast in Pujilí [es].
Ecuadorian rhythms, including an example of danzante [es].
Ecuadorian rhythms, including the danzante in the blog “Música ecuatoriana” [es].

Song 01. Danzante “Vasija de barro”, by Voces y Cuerdas del Ecuador.
Canción 02. Air of danzante “Cae la noche, sopla el viento”, by Los Calchakis.

Video 01. The danzantes of Pujilí.
Video 02. The Sun danzantes of Chibuleo.
Video 03. Corpus Christi feast, Pujilí 2009, including Danzantes.
Video 04. Example of Ecuadorian tonada. “Poncho verde”, by Margarita Laso.
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