Peruvian Scissor Dancing

My documentarian friend Andrea Dunlap over at the Seedling Project pointed out this great footage of a 'scissor dancing' contest in Peru, something she saw when she was living and filming there a few years ago. It happens a few times a year to mark Easter, Christmas, and Yacu Raymi (an annual water festival).

Andrea says participants travel everywhere with an entourage of harpists and violinists, doing intricate, rhythmic, often acrobatic dances using pieces of metal shaped like broken scissor halves as percussion, "eventually degenerating into stunts like dancing with cactus stuck all over the dancer's body, breathing fire, throwing firecrackers, etc...They make their own costumes and they have fierce names like Terror of Puquio, and The Lion." And you thought you were rebel for running with scissors!

Andrea has some scissor dance footage of her own and more photos from her time in Peru on her site. In addition to her focus on the food movement in California, she's currently working on a documentary about the incredible Cusichaca Trust, a group of archaeologists who are studying ancient Incan agricultural techniques and trying to revive them for modern farmers.

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  1. are the scissors making that bell-like sound? And what’s with all that cheesy font and color effects overlay? I hate this.

  2. Yes the scissors work like castanets, and Sudamericano TV programs are often copied on VHS, and processed with cheap video equipment.

    New question: I saw a travelogue featuring this practice, and the dancers appeared to be getting drunk. Is that part of the gig, or did I misinterpret it?

    (/Mi esposa loca est Peruana…/)

  3. Misuse of the term “degenerate”: the stunts are intended to be climactic. They’re the best part.

  4. My friend Mitch Teplitsky did a documentary on the art of Peruvian dance: http://www.soyandina.com/

    One of my housemates when I lived in NYC was Peruvian, and she had LOADS of tapes of the various types of dancing, all transferred like Phlip says, by what looks like direct tape-to-tape copying.

    Peru is one of those places that looks like it would be SO FUN to visit – the dancing is beautiful, the people are nice, and the food…. Mmmmmm…

    I -BELIEVE- the original Pio Pio restaurant in Queens still has people coming on Fridays to do the Scissor dance and other dances. If you’re in the area, it’s not something to miss. Also, try the ceviche, and the fried yucca. NOM NOM NOM.

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