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La danza de las tijeras

The dance of the scissors is an indigenous dance originally from Ayacucho, whose musical frame is provided by violin and harp. Later, it was spread by Huancavelica and Apurímac.

 It is a dance of religious magical character mostly dances in the Christmas holidays. The scissors dance is divided into: major, minor and zapateo dance, the first is the competition or atipanakuy, where each comparsa demonstrates their skills and through various tests with dance skills in the physical part and value, develop through of beautiful Andean melodies, intoning step by step all Andean experiences.

The “gala” garment is a red cloth trouser, adorned with ribbons of different colors, vest, shirt and coat, adorned with sequins, mirrors and gold stripes, the hat adorned with different colors, complemented by handkerchiefs, socks, sneakers , gloves and infallible female and male scissors. The dress of the dancers is composed of hat with plumes or flowers, white blouse with red or blue band, embroidery, waly of red or icing, slippers and handkerchiefs.

The dance is performed on dates of important ritual celebrations, such as the water festival in Ayacucho and some religious feasts of the Catholic saints and are currently executed in the south of the Ayacucho region in Sucre, Lucanas, Sara Sara and Parinacochas and in the Huancavelica region in the month of June in the Corpus Christi festival, the main festival takes place in the city of Huancavelica from 23 to 26 December, being central day on 25 and 26 the great traditional interbarrios competition.

It is a dance of very unique characteristics that make it unique in the Andean context. It highlights its choreography, the spectacularity of its movements, the challenge or artistic competition -atipanakuy- of dancers and the line of masters danzaq, its cultivators and executors, associates to collective thinking with mystical rituals and behaviors.

The scissors dancers descended from the Tusuq laykas who were prehispanic priests, diviners, wizards, and healers, who were persecuted during the colony.

During colonial times they began to become known as supaypa wawan (in Quechua “son of the devil”), taking refuge in the highest zones, and with the passage of the time the colonizers accepted that they returned but conditioning them to dance to the saints and the catholic god , initiating the tradition of performing the scissors dance at the patron saint festivities.

During the colony, the dance was influenced by the movements of the jota, contradanza and Spanish minuets, in addition to being influenced by the costumes of Spanish lights.

During the 20th century, the writer José María Arguedas immortalized the scissors dancer in several of his novels, as in The Agony of Rasu Ñiti ” (1962).

The dancer

He’s the scissor dancer. In the oral traditions of the Chanca area the danzaq is considered a devilish mythic being for reciting “laytachay jaunikillo”, which means “devil, my father.” The danzaq carries two scissors, called “female” ‘and’ ‘macho’ ‘, that come from times in which the dancers were exploited in the mining activity by the Spanish colonizers.

In the Ayacucho region, there are legends that explain that the dancer’s scissors were made by the ‘auquis’ and their sound comes from Yauruviri lagoon.


According to some scholars, the scissors dance is a grazing ball and shear of the winner, which was executed to worship the herds of auquénidos.

After the cut, the scissors deteriorated, reason why they began to be used like a musical instrument more.

The instruments are as follows:

The pinkullu and the tinya: wind instruments and percussion respectively, combine wonderful harmonies in layqa music.

The rawraku or rawrara (horn) and qawqa or qawqatu (caucato): harmonize in a varied and chromatic way layqa music.

The rawraku (raw onomatopoeia … crude …): formerly made of wood of chunta with a metallic tongue that was touched with the tongue or with the fingers. Later this instrument was made of pure metal.

The qawqa (onawatya of qaw … qaw …) made of arched trunk kiswar, with an interposition of strings made from the guts of vizcacha or sheep, thin to thick; with Christianity it is necessary to use the harp and the violin in the Spanish way.

The scissors layqa and tusuq layqa were accompanied with saqsaqa (onomatopaya of saq … saq …), immature pumpkin fruit that when dried remains as a sound bottle for the dried seeds inside.

Characteristics of the dance

The dance of the scissors can be of different types:

Major dance: Also called ” competition ”. Two dancers participate, who dance in turns challenging each other to overcome the risk of the steps they perform. This competition is known as atipanakuy, hapinakuy, tupanakuy, among others.

Minor dance: It is known as qolla alva. This dance is danced at night and are performed in the Christmas festivities.

In the sierra, the scissors dance is danced from April to December at all important agricultural and religious fairs. A sequence follows and the risk of the dance steps increases progressively.

Patara or pasta (in this stage dance steps are executed on the tip of the feet but it is not of sequential form)
Jingle Bell

At the end of the party, the people of the community designate the winner.

Rites of dance

Rite of pachasiray: it serves to bless the materials with which the costume is made. It lasts a whole night and is accompanied by prayers, swallows and coca leaves.

To make the scissors, a ceremony is performed in which the steel sheets are immersed in alcohol for a period of 7 days. Then they are allowed to dry for three days, three days before the dance.

The dance of the scissors was declared Cultural Patrimony of the Nation by the Ministry of Culture, as indicated in National Directorial Resolution No. 363 / INC-2005 dated April 22, 2005.

The dance of the scissors has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco on November 16, 2010.

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