World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Espirítu Andino

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Jacqueline Gumucio
First appearance in SF EDF: 2016

Espíritu Andino is a company with a mission to demonstrate the folklore that is Bolivia through music and dance. The group was founded in 2003 on the principle of teaching Bolivian dances to all who wish to learn.


GENRE: Traditional
TITLE: Chacarera; El Gato; Cueca Chapaca
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Jacqueline Gumucio
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Olivia Betancourt, Dexter Fernandez, Jacqueline Gumucio
DANCERS: Olivia Betancourt, Jairo Caballero, Dexter Fernandez, Jacqueline Gumucio, Raquel Zegarra
MUSICIANS: Georges Lammam (violin), Eddy Navia (guitar), Gabriel Navia (guitar), Fernando Sanjines (bombo)

The geography of Bolivia includes the Central Andes to the west, the Amazon River to the east, and in the southeast, El Gran Chaco, a vast geography of plains and virgin deciduous forest shared by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. El Chaco is the hottest and driest region of Bolivia. About 300,000 people—mostly mestizo or indigenous—live in the region’s many small towns.

This performance took us to a celebration around a fire pit in El Chaco. Women gather and greet each other, and the men come in from the fields, relieved the long workday has ended. Espíritu Andino presents three dances, accompanied by guitars, bombo, and violin.

Chacarera is a flirtatious dance. It’s a game of advance and retreat, with the men demonstrating their skilled escobilleo footwork, a smooth and rapid form of zapateo, trying to impress the women. The chacarera has roots in Spanish flamenco, with some movements originating in daily farm tasks.

The popular El Gato—The Cat—has a quick alegría rhythm related to the chacarera. Musicians will often improvise sly lyrics to the song or stop to tell a joke. Here, the dancers joke around with hand shaking, jumping, and elaborate foot work.

The Bolivian cueca, Cueca Boliviana, changes flavor in different regions, showing typical spirit characterized in music and dance. For example, the cueca in La Paz is formal, slow, and elegant; the form from El Chaco—on our stage—is Cueca Chapaca, lively and fast. It’s danced with enthusiasm and happiness: dancers can jump and run through the whole song. It’s a beloved national dance. The women exhibit their dancing skills with the deft swirling of skirts; a section featuring the sound of rapid unison zapateo; and the fast jaleo section, with its language of twirling handkerchiefs used in the game of seduction.

The musicians perform the song, Corazon de Sudamérica—Heart of South America—singing of a great love for their country:

Pueblos valientes y altivos
Unidos por siempre hermanos
Del altiplano a los valles
Del amazona a los llanos...
...Bolivia patria querida
Yo soy tuyo y tú eres mía

Brave and proud people
Brothers forever united
From the highlands to the valleys
From the Amazon to the plains...
...Bolivia, beloved homeland
I am yours and you are mine

The costumes were made in Tarija, Bolivia. The women wear long flower-print skirts in warm colors, ruffles, and flowers in their braided hair. The style evokes the colonial era. The men wear cowhide hats and pants, with flamenco-influenced shirts and boots; with gaucho baggy pants and
ponchos to keep warm in the strong wind.

Jacqueline Gumucio is Artistic Director and choreographer, with assistance from Dexter Fernandez and Olivia Betancourt. Jacqueline learned these dances in Bolivia with Ballet Folklórico Boliviano.

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