June 2012

La Cueca Cochabambina

Love has its language of its own; a physical one. Although the Cueca dance is associated with Latin American countries like Peru and Bolivia, it later spread through the rest of the Western Hemisphere. It is a couple’s dance, which has been influenced by Spanish and African roots. Despite the distinct varieties that the Cueca has to offer, its main allure emits the sensation of love. One such style is the Cueca Cochabambina.

By: Magali Dubois
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Lausanne - Switzerland


Cueca Dancers
Photo: Walter Sánchez

The Cueca is a dance for a couple, a man and a woman. The dancers, who use a handkerchief in their right hand, draw circular shapes, with turns and half turns, interspersed with various embellishments. It requires a lot of agility and grace. There are many types of Cuecas. This dance displays seduction, love, separation and reconciliation.

The Cueca is a dance of salons. In these social intellectual meetings, the Cueca was gathered together along with other dances that were practiced in balls or salons.

There are many types of Cuecas. This dance displays seduction, love, separation and reconciliation.

Founder of the K’danse school of dance, Gérard Kuster explains the difference between the dances of salons and the tropical dances. Of course, plenty of dances do not belong to these two categories. The most famous Latin (or Mediterranean) dances of salons are the Samba, the Cha‑cha-cha and the Rumba. The Tango and the Waltz (English waltz and Viennese waltz) are standard salon dances. On the contrary, Salsa, Bachata, Merengue and Mambo are tropical dances. Nowadays, with the commercialisation of music and world globalisation, youth also dance rock’n’roll, argentine tango, hip-hop, oriental dances or reggae.

Trey Richardson of LonelyPlanet.com explains that “The Spanish had some influence on dance, introducing their salon dances, the Cueca and Bailecito; both are still popular in most of Bolivia. They are danced by handkerchief-waving couples, primarily during parties.”

For Walter Sanchez, the Cueca was introduced in the 19th century in Lima, the Peruvian capital. It is a dance from African ascendance and blood sister of the Zamacueca or Masala.

According to Walter Sánchez, head pf the Instituto Investigaciones Antropológicas the Cueca was introduced in the 19th century in Lima, the Peruvian capital. It is a dance from African ascendance and blood sister of the Zamacueca or Masala. It was only performed in a small area but it soon spread to neighbouring Latin American countries and later Mexico and the United States. In Chile, the Cueca adopts a faster rhythm. After the war between Peru and Bolivia (1879), the dance adopted a more passionate name- the Chilena. Also around this period, the Peruvian forms of the dance became much slower. It was called the Marinera in honour to their naval forces. In Northern Argentina, the dance was identified as the CuecaCuyana, although in some areas it is still called the CuecaBoliviana.


Cueca dancers in a rural gathering
Photo: Walter Sánchez

In Bolivia, there are many types of Cueca, for example the Cueca Chuquisaqueña, which is slower and more refined. In the French guide called “Petit Futé”, the Cueca is described as a piece from theChilean dance of the same name. This is a kind of Creole adaptation from the Spanish fandango. Fandango is a musical style and traditional Spanish couples dance, from Andalusian origin, on a rhythm of ¾ or 6/8. It is accompanied by castanets and guitars, and can also be sung.

The Cueca Cochabambina, as described by the school of Bolivian dances “Charito Carazas”,is accompanied by a tissue that represents the silent language of love.

According to Mr. Sánchez, as same as in other capitals in Latin America, the Cueca was danced differently according to the regions. It was adopted by “mestizos” and “cholos” (artisans, merchants, sellers, etc.). It quickly became part of the celebrations, like weddings, baptisms and many others, in public places like “chicherías”, “picanterías”, patronal festivals and religious festivals.

Beyond the dichotomy that divided society between “popular” and “oligarchic” to the end of the 19th century, urban artisans and mestizo villagers, landlords, peasants, soldiers, priests and miners, danced the Cueca. Among the mestizos, cholos and peasants, the Cueca was an open challenge that often caused fights – common at parties and festivals – between the young children of the landowners or urban bureaucrats.

As a popular dance, it was common and frequent to see the presence of prostitutes. At the same time, the men showed their talent of conquest to the women. The CuecaCochabambina, as described by the school of Bolivian dances “CharitoCarazas”,is accompanied by a tissue that represents the silent language of love.The woman puts her left hand stylishly onto her skirt. It starts with a full turn, the meeting of both sides, the change of venue and time again for encounters or visits, as trying to have an initial communication. It is a dance of love, a desire of presentation. Both performers finish face to face but on the opposite side from where they started.

The footwork is the strongest and most vigorous musical structure. It ends with the manbowing down before the very successfully proud woman,confident of her conquest.

The woman wears a skirt and a blouse with short sleeves and a high-crowned white hat. The man wearstraditional pants, a shirt, a vest and a hat.

In all social levels, the Cueca maintains the spirit to be a challenging dance.

The Diablada

In the XVI century, the people who lived in the Andes Antiplano believed in the deity Urus. They believed that he created everything. Also called Wari, or “tío”, he is represented by a kind of devil who sought refuge in the mountains. Another deity they believed in was the Pachamama – also called Indi - she represented the earth, the ground. She was venerated by both the quechua and aymara people.

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