World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Luis Valverde

Dance Origin: Peru
Zapateo Negro
Luis Valverde
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2009

Luis Valverde began his career in Lima in 1991. His work brings the extraordinary variety of the Andean and Afro-Peruvian Dance to American audiences. He choreographs for Peruvian Dance Company, The Andean Project, and collaborates with Afro-Peruvian Master Lalo Izquierdo and with the group Sukay.


Title: El Tamalero
Luis Valverde
Adolfo Narrea, Miguel Santos
José Roberto Hernandez (guitar)


El tamalero llegoooo...!(The tamale vendor arrived ...!)

El tamalero suaaaaaveee...!(The "cool" tamelero...!)

In Old Lima City, Peruvian street vendors sang this pregón. Selling tamales is a way to make a living, but this tamale seller is really a dancer, and he is quickly lost in the joyful rhythms of his feet. Luis Valverde's piece allows him to showcase the complex footwork of Peruvian zapateo. His choreography starts out easy, and then builds in energy, culminating in the "fatal jump" (which Luis has fortunately lived through every time).

The Peruvian zapateo (shoe-stamping) combines the rhythmic striking of heels and toes against the floor or each other, with slapping and patting the arms, legs, and feet. Occasionally, one sees an escobilladas, a brushing movement of the shoe or bare foot along the ground. The dance is one of the most important traditional Afro-Peruvian forms. It originated in 16th-century coastal communities as enslaved Africans mixed African rhythms with Creole, Spanish Roma, European, and indigenous Peruvian. Over time, zapateo evolved as a contest of skilled footwork, and its judges enforced a complex set of rules: dancers performed five pasadas (footwork patterns) in order; then performed the same pasadas in reverse order; then ended with a redoble (footwork roll). Contestants began their careers improvising in a style borrowed from a master dancer, and gradually became known for their own distinctive steps. The pasada describes each unit of the zapateo step, and it also names the turn taken by a dancer in competition.

The piece was created and choreographed in June 2008 by Luis Valverde. Luis' tamalero costume was based on a watercolor by Pancho Fierro (Lima, 1807-1879), an artist who painted popular characters of the early Peruvian republic.

The music and zapateo style is Lima-Cañete. Zapateo is one of the varieties of the festejo genre, usually in 6/8, with a slow tempo. Dancers traditionally perform to one song or two, played on a guitar or violin. Today's guitarist performs a medley of zapateo melodies, a revival from several different sources.

José Roberto Hernandez studied ethnomusicology and folklore in the Federal District of Mexico. He has performed as lead guitarist in music ensembles throughout Mexico and Northern California, and is the composer and arranger of the Bay Area music ensemble HanakPancha.

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