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Land of winds > Rhythms and styles > Dance | Issue 05. May.-Jun.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza


The huaylarsh (also written huaylas, huaylash, waylash and waylarsh) is a musical style derived from both the traditional huayno and a folk dance widely spread and very much appreciated in Peru. It originated in the Valley of Mantaro (Junín department) and belongs to the folklore of the Huanca (or wanka) people.
It was traditionally played and danced during potato sowing, growing and harvest time, though at present huaylarsh performance within the context of popular celebrations usually matches up with the Carnival (February or March). Originally, it was believed to be part of a complex rite to honour the potential fruitfulness of the land. Today, it is considered to be a couple dance involving courtship behaviour.
A native legend tells that the mythical being known as Apu Willka taught the ayllus (extended families) of the Aullaka people (part of the ancient Huanca people) how to dance the huaylarsh during the potato sowing period. The dance probably takes its name from the Quechua (huanca dialect) walarsh, “young man”.
Within the old rural communities, the huaylarsh music was played with flutes and drums; dancers costume was based on daily clothes of the Peruvian Sierra natives; and the dance represented, in a simplified manner, different stages of agricultural processes such as covering the seeds with soil after sowing them.
In the 50’s, the Huanca musician and composer, Zenobio Dagha, changed the music, the costume and the dance of the so-called “old huaylarsh” and created what since then would be known as the “modern huaylarsh”, which is the favourite nowadays.
New instruments were incorporated such as chordophones (violin, mandolin and guitar) and brass ones, especially the saxophone. Dancers adopted a much more mestizo-style costume and the dance became more acrobatic including different types of tap-dancing and several strength demonstrations by male dancers.
The huaylarsh is one of the most spectacular Peruvian dances. Besides being a burst of agility and strength, its choreography portrays the joyfulness of the festivals held in the Peruvian Andes.

Waylarsh wanka, in Wikipedia [es].
Zenobio Dagha Sapaico, in Wikipedia [es].
Huaylarsh, in Huaylarsh [es].
Huaylarsh, in El huayno y otras danzas [es].

Video 01. Modern huaylash, by Danzas Perú.
Video 02 (low quality). Old huaylash, by Asociación Cultural “Brisas del Titicaca”.
Video 03. Huaylas of Carnival, by Jallmay Perú.
Video 04. Huaylarsh, by Minchanzaman.
Video 05. Huaylarsh of Junín Carnival.
Video 06. Old huaylarsh, by Conjunto Cebada Jaluy from Huasicancha.
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