The Scissor Dance (Danza de las Tijeras or Galas) is one of the most vibrant and unique dances to hail from the Peruvian highlands. Amidst lively acrobatic moves, dancers snap their scissors to keep the beat alongside violin and harp music. The steps represent and honor natural deities held sacred since pre-Columbian times, especially the mountain apus or wamanis and the pachamama earth mother.
Up until the Spanish conquest, the holy men, or Tusuq Laylas performed these dances, until Spanish fear that their skill was made possible by diabolical aid exposed them to persecution and they fled to the mountains. The dancers eventually returned to their villages only upon the condition that from now on, they would dance for Catholic saints. Local lore says that it was a pact with the devil that gives them their skills and the stamina to compete in marathon dance contests where they dance intermittently with competitors for 10 to 12 hours.
UNESCO honored the dance last year, declaring it part of the intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Its value was also declared by the Peruvian congress, which named it part of the nation’s cultural heritage. This week Corngress recognized dancer Rómulo Huamaní Janampa, whose dancing name is ‘QoriSisicha’, for his work in promoting the Scissor Dance. The ayacuchano was the dance’s national champion from 1980 to 1998 and has traveled around the world to promote the dance. If you have the chance to see a competition, if not in Huancavelica then in Lima, which also sponsors events, don’t miss it!
Atipanacuy & The Scissor Dance Festival
Each December, during the Atipanacuy festival, the dancers engage in ritual spectacles of an occasionally bloody sort, sometimes runing metal spikes through their bodies and spilling their own blood in the name of Christ but also to pass otherworldly ‘tests’ and thereby retain their skills. It is in December as well that Huancavelica holds its largest scissor dance contest. During each series of the competition, two or more dancers take turns performing their acrobatic jumps and detailed steps.
You can get to Huancavelica by taking a bus from Ayacucho (it’s about a five hour trip). Here’s the official program for this year’s festivities. Don’t forget your camera and, during this time of year, your rain gear!
Dances begin at 2pm at the Dirección Regional de Cultura
Dances begin at 1pm San Francisco Church (in the atrium)
Tests of Valor and Scissor Dancing for Atipanacuy at San Francisco Church from 1pm
Tests of Valor and Scissor Dancing for Atipanacuy at Pucachaca from 1pm
For more information about festivities and events in Peru during December, or transport or destination information, feel free to contact our travel agency department, Pirwa Travel Service. Our travel specialists have more than a decade of experience providing travel services for intrepid travelers like you- we hope to hear from you!