Supported in part by

National Endowment For The Arts

  Dances by Year
Performer Biographies

(all Years)
World Dance Encylopedia

(all years)

2020 Dance Styles:

2020 Other Disciplines:

Related Topics


Latin America
[ Mexico | Argentina | Bolivia | Brazil | Peru ]

Latin America is made up of Mexico in the north, the countries of Central and South America, and is generally considered to include the islands of the Caribbean, or West Indies. (We have a separate section in this guide for the Caribbean, however.)

The first inhabitants of Latin America were American Indians, including the Maya, the Inca and the Aztec who lived in highly developed civilizations notable for their advances in math and astronomy. The first Europeans arrived in the 15th century and began a turbulent, 300-year-long colonial rule of the region. The first Europeans also brought the first black Africans to Latin America as slaves, particularly in the Caribbean. As a result, most contemporary Latin Americans are a mix of European, native Indian and African heritage.

Many Latin American countries became independent republics in the mid 1800’s. Until the mid-1900's, most people were farmers and lived in rural areas. Today, the population resides primarily in large urban areas.

Most Latin Americans speak Spanish, Portuguese or French (Latin based languages) and share many traditions and values that spring from their common colonial heritage. But differences abound, often based on geography, regional identity and economic development.

[ Michoacán | Sonora | Veracruz | Nayarit ]

Mexico is the northernmost country of Latin America. It shares a northern boundary with the United States, about two-thirds of which is marked by the Rio Grande. Mexico City is the capital and Mexico’s largest city.

Mexico’s first human inhabitants were the native Indians—Toltecs, Olmecs, Maya, Zapotec and Aztec—who farmed, built cities and made advances in mathematics, astronomy and the arts. The last great Indian empire, the Aztecs, were conquered by the Spanish in 1521. The Spanish colonists plundered much of Mexico’s natural resources and introduced many changes in farming, government, industry and religion. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Today, the majority of modern Mexicans are mestizos, descendents of both Spanish and Indians ancestors.

Mexican Regional Dance
[ Maya ]

Mexican regional dance is comprised of dances from social settings in villages and cities, from 32 distinct regions of Mexico, each which have their own flavor of culture, movement and music. Over the last 40 years, dance researchers and instructors have arranged some of the most popular dances from each region for the stage. Each folkloric group is usually capable of performing dances from several regions. 


Performances in
World Arts West Programs
La Corte Maya Ceremonial - The Royal Court of the Ancient Maya
Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco
Instruments Used

The Maya were one of Mexico’s oldest pre-Hispanic civilizations. The civilization reached its peak before the rise of the Aztec culture. Artifacts such as codicies (hieroglyphic books) and temples were discovered. The artistic achievements of the Maya are startling to modern anthropologists, both for their sophistication and for their fascinating similarities to the art of the ancient eastern civilizations.

The ancient Maya site of Bonampak – Painted Wall- lies in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Mexico, close to the Guatemalan border. It houses the Temple of Murals, with frescoes painted around 790 BCE. This site was still used for worship by indeigenouts Maya when it was “uncovered” in 1946 and since then, its stunning murals have been documented, photographed and reproduced life-sized. Three rooms of paintings show us what life was like for the ancient Maya: there are images of warriors at battle; of the robbing of priests and nobles; of a ceremony to mark a child as a noble heir; of a grand orchestra of musicians and instruments; and of a ceremony with dancers in fine costumes wearing masks of god. Hieroglyphic text dates the scene and gives the names of participants.

Dance from the Maya civilization, or Pre-Columbian period was largely seen as a medium through which humans interacted with the supernatural. It is characterized by trances, depictions of gods and spirits, connections to animals and their behaviors, and the portrayal of the force of natural elements. Traditional Maya dancing represented the relationship between man and the gods, and often included sacrifices.


The State of Michoacán is part of the "Región Bajía," (lowland region) of México. Michoacán is a region of plains, lakes and mountains, which lies along the southwest coast of Mexico along the Pacific Ocean. The region of Michoacán was known as the Tarascan Empire prior to the 16th century Spanish exploration and conquest of North America.

Sones Antiguos

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Sonajas (rattle dances), Jarabes, and Diana
Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco
Instruments Used

Michoacán, a land of beautiful, sunny weather, was immediately settled by the newcomers, which explains how the dances called "Sones" are "mestizos," (mixed in origin: Spanish/Indigenous). The P'urhepecha people, who inhabit the northern region, are cradled in the mountains surrounding Lake Patzcuaro.

La pirekua (meaning "song") is the poetic expression of the P'urhepecha people, celebrating their lives and appreciating the beauty that surrounds them and sustains them. They are interpreted by the pirericha (singers), singing solo or in duet, in harmonies of thirds or sixths, and are generally accompanied by guitars playing abajeños (Fast tempo in 6/8 time). Here is an example of a pirekua translated into English, called "Nana Chuchita," which praises this giver of life, Maria Chuchita:

Good morning,
May your awakening be peaceful.
Today, your Purembe People come to sing.
Your People greet you with tender affection,
Flower, beautiful dawn of Michoacán.
You are, María Chuchita, our comfort,
Let time never separate you from us.
The instruments used for these abajeños are the Violin, the guitar or vihuela (a smaller, higher-pitched guitar) and bass, all of which demonstrate Spanish influence. It could be said that the huaraches, which are the sandals that the dancers wear, are musical instruments as well, since the footwork is an absolutely essential part of this music. However, though the musical instruments are influenced by the Spanish, the sandals, the dance, the mask, the humor and vitality are ancient, and purely P'urhepecha.


The Yaqui and Mayo tribes are native to the Northwest Mexican highlands of the Sonora region, and are the creators of some of the most beautiful and spectacular Mexican folk dances. Under the generic title of "Pascolas," these dances are performed in Sonora, the Bacatete Sierra, and in a town called Tehueco in Sinaloa.

Yaqui Deer Dance

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Danza del Venado - Dance of the Deer
Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco

This elegant and profound dance symbolizes the struggle between good and evil, through a confrontation between a sacred deer and aggressive coyotes and hunters, bringing to mind parallels of cultural, philosophical, and spiritual struggles as well.

The deer dancer wears a tall mask / headpiece with large antlers, and the movements of the graceful and noble deer are beautiful and poignant in the expression of freedom. With elegant jumps, turns of the head, and proud body movement, the life of the deer is recounted; traveling through the forest, jumping into the air, grazing in the meadows and meeting the hunter.

The deer soon senses danger as the coyotes draw near, and the dancer's movements and rhythm suddenly change. The sounds made by the rattles and objects trimming the deer dancer's garments, and musical instruments, suggest the noises of the forest. The course of this performance is traditionally accompanied by a metaphoric commentary, chanted by an old man of the tribe.

Two coyotes enter the scene wearing masks covering one side of their faces. Around the waist is a thick leather belt with bells attached; the legs are wrapped in a rebozo, sarape or robe secured with leather straps, and the trouser legs are edged with strings of tiny rattles made of butterfly cocoons filled with pebbles. To accompany the coyotes, the musicians traditionally used string instruments of European origin, violins and a harp. The musicians were saluted by the coyote characters as beings of superior social standing. By contrast, the instruments that accompany the deer are purely indigenous drums and a five-tone reed flute. The musicians receive no special respect from the deer who is the holy animal of the people.


Veracruz is the name of a state, a large city and a major port along Mexico's eastern shore. The state of Veracruz boasts a temperate climate, warm and humid along the coast and cool in the foothills and mountains. The city of Veracruz is a major port and a producer and exporter of cacao (an ingredient in chocolate), textiles and cigars. The people of Veracruz are known as jarochos.

Today, the city is known for its music, including marimba bands, danzonera and comparsa. An equally rich dance tradition parallels Veracruz's unique musical styles. The yearly Carnaval festival in Veracruz, a nine-day party in February or March illustrates the region’s strong cultural ties to the Caribbean.

Image courtesy of

Veracruz Dance and Music

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Son Jarocho
Cascada de Flores
Instruments Used

Jarocho is a term that refers to the people and culture of southern Veracruz, along Mexico's eastern coast.  Son jarocho describes one unqiue style of music and dance from that region, noted for its emphasis on improvisation and variations in rhythm. Noted son jarocho artist and scholar Timothy Harding writes that many of the dance styles in Veracruz have their origins in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the influence of dances like the Fandago that migrated from Spain. Spanish influences can also be noted in the music’s structure, verse forms, and stringed instruments. Also, because African slaves were used in plantation agriculture until the early 19th century, the region bears the influence of the music developed by both slaves and free blacks. Dr. Harding notes that much of the music of the region has African singing characteristics, such as call and response, slurring notes in intervals in the scale, and an "irreverent attitude" developed among a people who were on the margins of Indian and Spanish society. For more information, visit



Nayarit Dance and Music

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
San Pedreño, Son del Buey, Los Bules
Esperanza del Valle

Nayarit was part of the State of Jalisco until the turn of the century. The music and dances of the Mestiza culture (Indigenous, African, and Spanish) still predominate in the region of Nayarit.  The music and dances of Nayarit show the spirit of the fiesta and the excitement of coming of age. In some cases, the dances are competitions for the men and women to show their bravado.


Argentina is in the southern tip of South America, bordered by Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, and Chile. It is the eighth largest country in the world and encompasses a diversity of land, climate, and culture. While Argentina is renown for its natural beauty, some of the word’s tallest mountains, expansive deserts, and dramatic waterfalls can be found there, its cities are also very impressive and home to 90% of the country’s population.

The principal indigenous peoples are the Quechua of the northwest and the Mapuche in Patagonia. Other minority groups include the Matacos and Tobas in the Chaco and other northeastern cities.  Argentina’s culture is also greatly influenced by its prominent immigrant population. There are large Jewish and Anglo-Argentine communities throughout the country; small communities of Japanese, Chileans, and Bolivians; and enclaves of Paraguayan and Uruguayan residents. From these assorted traditions emerged many unique (and widely celebrated) folkloric and popular Argentine dance forms.

[ ]

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Malambos con Boleadoras
Malambos and Chacarera
Pampa Cortés

The town of Santiago del Estero is known as the birthplace of many famous folkloric dancers and musicians. The dances from this region spring mainly from Europe and the culture of the gaucho, or South American "cowboy."

The word "gaucho" comes from an indigenous Quechua word "huachu" meaning orphan or vagabond. The Spanish colonizers transformed the term into two words: "guacho" (WA-cho) still means orphan, often endearingly, and the term "gaucho" (GOW-cho) means vagabond and refers to the men of indigenous roots mixed with African and/ or European ancestry, who took up the work of tending cattle in what is now Argentina, Southern Brazil, and Uruguay. Fiercely independent, they lived in a very difficult world of work and solitude. They benefited greatly from contact with the indigenous peoples, who were ultimately exterminated by European contact and by the Argentine government. Gauchos still exist and work, on ranches and in rural areas.

The style of dance that gauchos typically enjoyed was called malambos, and began around 1600. Incorporating zapateo, the art of percussive footwork rooted in Spanish Flamenco, malambos were traditionally performed by men. The dance movements include the cepillada (brushing - to graze the floor with the sole of the foot), the repique (striking the floor with heel and spur), and floreos (decorative movements of the feet). This dance form was often used as a form of competition between two or more men. One man starts with an escobillado (softly brushing the floor with his foot), and then he proposes a "figure" or footwork passage to his competitor, and ends with a salute. The other man copies the proposed figure, adding one that is more difficult, and then performs the salute. When one is unable to copy the other, the competition is finished, with the more proficient dancer the winner. The music features guitar and/or bombo, the drum.

The boleadoras were originally a weapon used by the indigenous people and adopted by the gauchos, to entrap fleeing animals. The weapon was basically a lasso, with three balls (originally rocks and later wood) bound and suspended from rawhide strips and swung three at a time in a whirling motion to entrap the neck or feet of a fleeing animal (or enemy). It is said that in the early 1950's, Santiago Ayala began incorporating footwork (zapateo) with weapons, establishing the malambos with cuchillos (knives), lanzas (lances), làtigos (whips), bombos (drums), and finally the famous boleadoras. The dancer uses two wooden balls as boleadoras, making rhythms against the floor, and whirling them in a rotational motion. Increasing the complexity of movements increased the rhythmic possibilities, becoming an exciting dance both physically and musically.

While based on typical and traditional gaucho dance, folkloric interpretations of these dances incorporate stylizations of stage performance, transforming them into artistic works for the stage. The dances of the gauchos are a popular part of Argentine folkloric dance, and are becoming increasingly infused with "fantasía" - incredible feats of skill for exhibition and show.

The "botas de potro" were made from the skin of the horse's leg, similar to a boot but with the toes exposed. Of course, modern folkloric dancers use boots that are appropriate for dancing on a stage, and that have heels and toes that are studded with nail heads to act as taps.

The gaucho also wears a chiripà, which is woven of wool keeping him warm and providing protection for the legs while mounted on horseback. The large pants are called "bombachas" and the "rastra" is a large leather belt decorated with coins and links of chain, which acts a place to store necessary tools of the trade, including a cuchillo (knife), and the boleadoras.


Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Marcelo Solís and Romina Hahn

Tango developed in the 1880’s in the poor urban neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and became the characteristic expression of the lower classes, many of who were recent immigrants from Europe. Tango is a dance of passion, elegance, grace, speed and intricate steps. Born in the bars, cafes, and brothels, it moved to dancing houses, then finally inside the middle and upper class Argentinean homes. Some say the word "tango" comes from the Latin word tangere (to touch) - the embrace is central to this dance form as partners dance very close to each other. The entire range of human feelings is expressed in tango.

Argentina developed very fast between 1880 and 1930 becoming one of the ten richest nations in the world. During that period of fast development the very rich often traveled to Europe at least once a year. It was they who introduced Argentine tango to the Parisian nobility. Tango became the craze of the time right away – from Paris, the dance and music rapidly migrated to the other big capitals, London, Rome, Berlin, and finally New York.

Tango evolved as it moved both through the societal levels within Argentina and as it mixed with other world dance cultures. The antique Argentine tango was influenced by the tango Habanera, a dance and music style that reached its peak in 1883 but died towards the end of the century. The tango Habanera evolved from the milonga (with influences from the guajira flamenca) and the tango Andaluz or tango flamenco. The milonga was danced and played by rural populations in Argentina and combined indigenous rhythms with the music of early Spanish colonists. Some aspect of the dance are also attributed to a dance called Candombe, which was danced by Africans and their descendents living in Buenos Aires and nearby Uruguay. The male Candombe dancers danced with their knees flexed, to show their dance skills with walking steps (corridas) and turns.

Tango reached its pinnacle of popularity in the 1940's, the “Golden Age of Tango,” during which it evolved into the form we know today. Now it is considered an integral part of Argentine culture, both in its salon (social) and exhibition (theatrical) forms. Internationally it is equally popular amongst Hispanic and crossover audiences, with a very large following in many parts of the United States, Europe, Japan, Mexico and Latin America. Styles vary in Tango: Argentine, French, Gaucho and International, and is considered one of the American 'Standards' regardless of its origin.


Bolivia is a country located near the center of South America. Bolivia has two capitals. The Supreme Court meets in the city of Sucre, but most other government offices are located in La Paz, Bolivia’s largest city.

Most Bolivians are of Indian or of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry. Many still live in rural areas and work as farmers.

Bolivia’s geography includes dry plateaus, rain forests, hills, grasslands, and plains. The Andes Mountains, the world’s longest chain of mountains above sea level, are located, in part, in western Bolivia. The mountain range continues along the west coast of South America, a distance of 4,500 miles. The Andes are about 400 miles across at its widest parts. Many peaks rise to above 20,000 feet.

Andean Dance
[ Huayno | Suri Siquris ]

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Suri Siquris and Huayno
Sukay and Pachamama
Instruments Used

Photo: Sukay, Andean DancerThe Aymara and the Quechua cultures are among the indigenous civilizations that still dwell in the Andes Mountains of South America, which cover parts of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile. These cultures have continued to carry on traditions of dance and music that date back to earlier than 15,000 BC.

The Aymara culture has a wealthy repertoire of folk dance and music known as Native (pre-Colombian) and Mestizo dance, which originated after the Spanish conquest and incorporated European influences. In urban centers, Mestizo dances have found much popularity, especially during local festivities and celebrations of patron saints, while Native dance has only found minimal acceptance. However, Native dance is still performed in rural areas during religious or secular community celebrations, examples of this dance being: Sikuris, Pinkillus, Chaqallus, Lawa k'umus, Chuqilas, K'usillos.

The events during which music and dance are traditionally performed in this region are considered expressions of communitás: an expression of community structure and solidarity through ceremonial events, which interpret and reaffirm common values and identity. Whether the event is religious or secular, private or communal, music and dance are important mechanisms of communication and underline the communitas.

Andean music is known as that music performed by the four basic instruments: siqu (siku) (also called panpipes or zampoñas), charango (stringed instrument), bombo (drum), and quena (flute). The siqu is of Aymara origin, while the charango was created after the Spanish conquest, as string instruments were originally unknown in the Andes. In ancient times the charango was made with the carapace of the armadillo, which historians believe first originated in Aymara territory (Potosi) in the 17th century.

Until the 1960s these instruments were played only by indigenous people in remote and rural areas. From the second half of the 1960s onwards, a sector of young people in Chile started up a political and cultural protest movement. This social current adopted as its symbol the musical trend known as nueva cancion or cancion protesta, which is performed with the four indigenous instruments. Victor Jara, Inti Illimani, Kollawara, and Quilapayun were the first exponents of nueva cancion. Later this music spread to the rest of the Andean countries and became popular among students there, especially in Bolivia and Peru, countries that were, at the time, under military regimes. At the beginning of the 1980s however, the political message of the nueva cancion was abandoned, and this music then became commercially acceptable, as it transformed into what we now know as Andean Music.

A recent development in the Andes, as in many areas of the world, is that of "folkloric" music and dance groups that perform on stage rather than as part of a religious or secular communal event. Beginning in 1978, around the time that tourism to the area started to increase, local musicians and dancers began to perform in tourist restaurants in urban centers, and folkloristic groups in touristic taverns. Latin American folk music, played live by groups of young middle class Mestizos alternated with recorded Western disco music.


Huayno, also spelled Huaiño or Wayno, is widely recognized as the most representative dance of the Andes, with pre-Columbian (Quechua and Aymara) origins fused with Western influences. While historians speculate that it may have come from an Inca funeral dance, today it is purely festive. A circle of dancing couples surrounds the musicians, whose instruments may be flutes, drums, harps, and guitars. Couples dancing the huayno perform sharp turns, hops, and tap-like zapateos to keep time.

Huayno music is played on quena, charango, harp, and violin, however, there are dozens of regional variations, some of which involve marching bands, trumpets, saxophones and accordions. The musical structure stems from a pentatonic scale (scale of five notes) with a binary rhythm, (2/4 time). This structure has made this genre the basis of a series of hybrid rhythms, running from huayno to Andean rock.


Suri Siquris

headdressSuri Siquris is a dance that dates back to 800 BC. The name comes from the great headdress made of feathers from the suri or ñandu (American ostrich) and the dance is done in relation to the harvest. The musicians who play the siqus and dance are known as Siquris. The siqus has 17 canes, and comes in four sizes. They are played in sets of two, in interlocking melody and rhythm. The men dress in beautiful Alpaca ponchos with color tassels called wichiwichi, and the women dress in beautiful party skirts.


Brazil is the largest country in South America, both in area and population. It has more people than all other South American countries combined. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are Brazil’s two largest cities. Brasilia is the capital city of Brazil.

Brazil boasts amazing geographic features, including tropical rain forests, vast deserts, lush plains and mighty rivers, including the Amazon, the world’s second longest river.

About half of Brazil’s population are descended from German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish settlers. Others are of African (or a mix of European and African) ancestry. Indians, the original Brazilians, make up less than 1 percent of Brazil's people.


Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Brazilian Martial Arts
ABADÁ - Capoeira San Francisco Performance Troupe
Instruments Used
Agogo bells

The majority of African slaves brought to Brazil came from the Port of Angola.  However, they were captured in different regions of Africa.  They spoke many different languages and they had many different religions, customs and traditions.  The captured Africans were then sold in three main ports: Bahia, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro.  The tactic used by the slave traders was to mix the African people up so that they could no longer communicate with each other.  The slave traders thought that if the Africans could not communicate with each other they would be less effective at organizing rebellions.  As a result, many peoples were brought together that had never had anything to do with one another before, due to tribal rivalries and geographic differences.  They learned the common language of Portuguese in order to communicate, and they shared with each other many of their practices, eventually creating new traditions together.  Many rituals and cultural practices were brought together within this context, and it believed that capoeira is one of the fruits of this mixture of African cultures.
Most of the enslaved Africans in Brazil worked on huge tobacco and sugarcane plantations. They were forced to work most of the day in extreme heat and under cruel, inhumane conditions. They needed their cultural traditions, such as capoeira, to keep their spirits alive. The different aspects within capoeira (dance, acrobatics, martial arts, music and song) can be referenced in a number of diverse African fighting forms and rituals.  If you were to travel to Angola and other parts of Africa today, you find fighting techniques, music and rituals similar to some of the elements in capoeira, but you would not find capoeira itself.  Capoeira was created in Brazil by the mixing of cultures.
Many enslaved Africans in Brazil rebelled and ran away from the plantations. With the help of the native Indian peoples of Brazil and some Portuguese colonists who were against slavery, the slaves fled to remote areas in the mountains and rainforests to be safe.  It was in these Quilombos, or places of refuge that the fusion of cultures was able to flourish.  It is believed that in these villages, the refugees created and practiced fighting techniques in order to protect the Quilombos and to return to the plantations to free other slaves. Thus, Capoeira became a key element in their system of revolt. On the plantations, music, song, dance, and ritual became important aspects of the art in order to help disguise the deadly martial art from the slave owners.
The recognition of Capoeira as a respected art form began with the efforts of Master Bimba Manuel dos Reis Machado in 1937. He was granted permission from the government to open the first school of capoeira, thus allowing the art form to be practiced openly. It has since flourished throughout Brazil and is becoming increasingly popular throughout North America, Europe, and areas around the globe.
Thanks to Abada Capoeira for information on this discipline.


Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Aguas da Bahia
Instruments Used
Agogo bells
Tumbadora (Conga)

(pronounced ma--lay-lay) "the dance of the sticks"

Maculele dancersThe exact origins of the dance called Maculele are not certain, however there are many stories and legends surrounding its history. It is agreed that Maculele was created by enslaved Africans working on the sugar cane plantations. The sticks used in the dance resemble stalks of sugar cane, and the "Facao" or machete often used in the dance is the tool used to cut sugar cane.

Some stories talk about Maculele being a dance done by enslaved Africans on the senzala, their living quarters on the large plantations. It may have been to celebrate harvest time, or as a way to practice defending themselves. Possibly, like the martial dance capoeira, this dance was a martial art form disguised as a celebration dance. Escaped slaves would use the movements to battle the "captains" who would hunt them, using sticks straight out of the fire that were still burning.

Other stories say it is related to a battle between tribes in Africa. One such story is that of a village whose people went to hunt and left a single boy to protect the children and women. A neighboring tribe attacked the village, and the boy picked up two sticks on the ground and ran around with so much energy and bravery that he chased away all the attackers. When the hunters returned he became a big hero and they created the dance of Maculele in honor of his bravery and spirit.

Maculele is similar to some dances of the indigenous people of Brazil. There may have been some mixing of African and indigenous cultures to create the movements of maculele, however the music and songs are mostly African, (sung in Yoruba) and Portuguese.

MaculeleMaculele is most closely tied to the city Santo Amaro in the interior of the Brazilian state of Bahia. There is a story about Mestre Po-Po in Santo Amaro that says he began to use movements of the dance in the streets, clapping hands with a friend in order to get the attention of young women that were passing by. In the early 1900's, Mestre Po-Po revived and refined the dance of Maculele, and, by his act of forming a folkloric dance company, this dance form became known throughout Brazil and beyond. Maculele is performed by folkloric dancers in Bahia, and also has become a dance that Capoeira schools throughout Brazil practice because of its similar roots to those of Capoeira.


Peru is the third largest country in South America, after Brazil and Argentina. It lies along the Pacific ocean, in the western part of the South American continent. Lima is the capital and Peru’s largest city.

Afro-Peruvian Folkloric: Festejo & Zapateo

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Son De Los Diablos
De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association
Instruments Used

Peruvian Coastal dance

As in other parts of the Americas, Africans arrived in Peru as part of the Spanish trade between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Their labor built coastal cities and enriched valley farms; their contribution to music and dance created a fusion known as landó.

Traditional festejo and zapateo are styles that come from "El Carmen," a village located in the Chincha province south of Lima, in the coastal region. This is a distinct region where the pronounced legacy of African slaves adds a unique flavor to the ever present Spanish and indigenous heritage.

Though in many parts of the Americas indigenous peoples were decimated, Peruvian indigenous culture continues to be a strong presence in Peruvian life and art. However, the unique coastal styles of music and dance are dominated by African and Spanish influences, with indigenous elements. Some subtle aspects of the song format and the musical intonation, and some costuming elements, can be traced to indigenous peoples. Much of the instrumentation and language of the songs are clearly Spanish, and the syncopated rhythms, call and response song format, and many of the dance movements are African in origin.

Peruvian musiciansThe Africans that arrived in Peru were brought mostly from the regions of Angola and the Congo, but also many other people of African descent arrived who were born in Panama, Spain, and Brazil. Since the African ethnic groups were so mixed by the time they reached Peru, most religious traditions and languages were lost, though some music and dance survived.

In festejo, a festive social dance, it is easy to see the African influence in the rhythmic movements and isolations of the torso and pelvis. Zapateo (footwork competition) exhibits the subtle and intricate footwork based on African rhythms, which is related to North American clogging and tap dancing. Though not directly influenced by each other historically, dancers in both Peru and North America developed percussive dance under similar conditions and circumstances, attesting to the creativity and adaptability of strong traditions such as those from West Africa.


| People Like Me | Viewer's Guide Home | Dance Style Locator | Program | Activity Pages | KidsArt | Evaluations | Site Map | Printable Pages | Resources |