Dancing With Scissors


How many folks here, while growing up and given a pair of scissors for some craft project was admonished, “don’t run with the scissors!”? The thought, of course, was safety – if you’re running and trip you could hurt yourself or someone else with a suddenly errant, newly minted weapon of death.

What if I were to tell you that in Peru, folks sneer at such faint-hearted behavior; they’ll not only run, but dance, cavort, and do acrobatics, all while keeping a beat with a pair of scissors?

Before we left Lima we had one last diversion, a floor show after dinner. We were to see a series of dances, evolved from the various cultures and eras of Peru.

Having survived the lima beans I was on my way to the dessert table when the opening performance began, a young solo dancer going through native looking dance moves. Nice, but kind of ho-hum. I’m not a huge fan of interpretive dance, and figured it was going to be a long night after an already long day.

But soon the pace picked up. Older, more accomplished dancers started doing their thing. Pairs and coupled pairs did routines, both sophisticated for each couple and integrated for the coupled pairs. Dance styles started to become evident.

The Spanish influence made an appearance. Flamenco style steps. Ballroom style, perhaps Peru’s take on the Argentine Tango. Flirtatious dances. Dances with a religious theme. Dances with an African influence.

All the dancers were in costume, anything from simple but elegant to highly elaborate; many colors, many patterns, sometimes representing warriors or demons.

The African style (Festejo) dancers had a fun wrinkle. When they came out for a second dance, there was a confusing addition to their costumes. It appeared that they’d added a tail, of sorts – it looked like a folded napkin. Soon the reason for this became evident; they started dancing with lit candles, then attempted to light each other’s “tails” on fire. Talk about a good reason to shake your booty!

The ladies especially could work that butt up into a blur. The tail went flying hither and yon, refusing to stay put long enough for their male partners to have any chance of setting it alight. One of them eventually gave up and cheated, he physically picked up his partner like a sack of potatoes and lit her tail while she was helpless. The ladies had their turn too, the men proved adept at the hip twitch as well.

As you might expect, this game suggested audience participation. I practiced my highly honed introvert skills and attempted to become invisible, apparently with success as others were chosen. They too showed a surprising ability to shake it; I suspect the prospect of having your rear-end lit on fire is a good motivator.

But the highlight of the show was the scissor dancers. They did not carry true scissors, but two polished iron rods in their right hand which together looked like a pair of scissors. They’d use these rods somewhat like castanets; they’d knock them together with a rhythmic musical clang, keeping time with the background music. While keeping that hand busy they’d have a dance off; challenging each other with a series of steps and moves of ever increasing complexity. Think break dancing with eight-inch long iron castanets. If that wasn’t tricky enough, they’d be wearing elaborate costumes, sometimes complete with headgear.

This is something that needs to be seen to be believed. Check out this youtube link for a video from a different performance.

I no longer feel so cocky about being able to walk and chew gum. But the next time I carry scissors, I may do so with a spring in my step.



18 thoughts on “Dancing With Scissors

  1. I found this fascinating, but perhaps not for the reason you might suspect. When we were learning about the food influences in Peruvian cuisine, one of the unexpected influences was from the African slaves that were brought in by the Spanish. Clearly, they had a profound and lasting impact not just on the food culture, but on the artistic dances of the culture as well.

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    1. I didn’t actually pick up on the African connection until I researched the dances, I was originally thinking there was some spillover from Brazilian samba dancing. Maybe they both have African roots. I didn’t know about Africans in Peru.

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      1. Sorry Dave. Just seeing this now (being new to blogging, I just discovered how to see the comments people make to the comments you leave on others’ posts. Oops!). I was quite surprised when I found out about that, and when I learned about the mass migrations of Japanese to Peru. One of their recent presidents was of Japanese descent, apparently. And as we drove through the countryside, adobe buildings had painted advertisements for his daughter, Kenko (I think that was the name) as she was now running for political office.

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      2. I’m guessing you found the notification icon in the upper right corner of the reader. Notifications from the WordPress app on a smartphone work good too.

        I understand that Japanese (second generation) president was controversial. Apparently he did do a lot of good things, but there was corruption and kickbacks involved, including some shady characters (drug lords). He was eventually arrested. I didn’t know about the daughter, I just heard the election was very close.

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      3. Ha! No. I only found them on the smart phone app. Still so much to learn….

        Two guides we had thought very highly of him, despite the controversy and the long period of time in which he’s been living, imprisoned. It had to do with the creation of a true middle class, under his tenure.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow – kind of bizarre! I never saw such a thing in Peru, but then again, I did not attend a dance show, so how would I know?! I could see having all those various cultural influences, but I wonder where the scissor idea came from?

    Liked by 1 person

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