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Land of winds > Traditions > Clothing | Issue 05. May.-Jun.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

The danzaq

The danzaq
With this name are known the dancers of the “danza de las tijeras” (literally, scissors dance), a Peruvian artistic expression with strong magical-religious components, declared one of Mankind’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO in 2010.
According to some scholars such as Lucy Núñez Rebaza and Antonio Villegas Falcón, this dance could have had an immemorial origin: probably it appeared in the Inca society following the tusuq laykas or witch doctor dancers’ practice. During the colonial times, missionaries linked these expressions to demoniac activities (in fact they called dancers supaypa wawan, “Devil’s sons”), and banned them. And it was then when an indigenous movement of complex political, religious and cultural dimensions known as “taqui ongoy” arose in the Peruvian Andes from1564 to 1572. The name comes from Quechua taki unquy, literally “chant sickness” or “chant of suffering” depending on the translator. One of its main features, according to “idolatry extirpator” Cristóbal Albornoz, were the dances, during which dancers went into a trance. Despite destroying local temples and sacred sites to the ground, missionaries were neither able to eradicate ancient beliefs nor to put an end to these dances, which continued being considered as “treaties with the Devil”. The dancers fled to the heights and as time passed authorities allowed them to come back into society, though their practices were limited to only catholic festivities.
In traditional (rural) contexts, the dancers are called different names depending on the region: in Ayacucho, danzaq (in Quechua, “those who dance”); in Huancavelica, supaypa wasin tusuq (in quechua, “those who dance in the Devil’s home”) or simply tusuq (in Quechua, “dancer”); and in Apurímac, “galas” (refers to their formal dress). José María Arguedas popularized the dance in several of his novels and most of all in his tale “La agonía de Rasu Ñiti” (The agony of Rasu Ñiti) where he first named it “danza de las tijeras”. This name evokes the resemblance between the iron blades that dancers hold in their hands and the old scissors. Curiously enough, many dancers use real scissors nowadays.
Native to the Ayacucho department, it spread across the departments of Apurímac, Huancavelica and the northern part of Arequipa. During the socio-political clash of the ‘80s in the Sierra, this dance reached the department of Lima, where their last exponents took refuge. Its presence is currently consolidated in local patron festivities and festivals in the honour of guardian deities such as the Fiesta del Agua (Water festival) in Puquio, Santiago or Illapa celebrations, Christmas and the Bajada de Reyes (the procession of the Three Holy Men).
As other forms of folklore, this dance is orally transmitted from generation to generation and provides a sense of belonging, identity and continuity to its community.
Today, the musical context is provided by the harp and the violin. However, in the old times it was accompanied by the pinkullu (flute), the tinya (small drum), the rawraku or rawrara (horn), the qawqa (musical bow) and the saqsaqa (gourd rattle).
The dance includes figures that are very difficult in their execution, which some people associate with the wamani or sacred spirits (Pachamama, beings from the Hanaqpacha or upper world and the Ukhupacha or under world) and others consider to be simple country life representations. There are many different variants, though the best known (and appreciated) is the competition (atipanakuy) between two dancers to see who performs the most difficult acrobatic movements.
The dance also has a number of Spanish borrowings from colonial times (jota, contradanza, minué) and follows a series of steps, such as blessing both the costumes (pachasiray ritual) and the scissors, and the passacaglia.
The danzaq’s costume is an artwork in itself. Its weight is around 15 kilograms what turns the dance into a physical challenge for the dancer. They wear a red headscarf (uma watana) and, on it, a montera: a huge hat weighing 5 kilograms, embellished with a lot of small mirrors, ribbons and the artist’s name embroidered in it. The montera has a sort of tail (chupa) that is held tight to the body by a string. A sleeveless jacket covers the upper body. On it they wear a small poncho with silver and golden embroideries and pompoms. They hold the scissors in their hands, covered with gloves, and keep the time with them. In fact, the scissors are two separate metal blades each 25 centimetres long and weighing 700 grams both.
The costume also includes a colourful wide belt chumpi made of wool around the waist and fringed trousers wara with flouces. These are covered with underpants chankalli resembling shorts. Long socks and leather sandals siq’oy sirayca complete their clothing.
The scissors dance is surrounded by traditions. For example, the scissors are offered to the auki (ancient spirits) and are tuned submerging them in a sacred spring, from where, it is said, they would take their bright sound. Every garment has a ceremonial meaning and a specific relation with the wamani.


Danza de las tijeras (literally, Scissors dance), in Wikipedia.
The danzaq boy [es].
Danza de las tijeras, in Wiki Sumaq Peru [es].
The danza de las tijeras, in Danzas folklóricas [es].
Taki onqoy, in Wikipedia.

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