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Scissors Dance or La Danza de las Tijeras in Peru

Head to the ground, one foot up, arms criss-crossed and blades right in front of your face—this is the ancient Dance with Scissors

Scissors Dance or La Danza de las Tijeras
Scissors Dance or La Danza de las Tijeras
Scissors Dance or La Danza de las Tijeras
Scissors Dance or La Danza de las Tijeras

Every nation on Earth has rituals or activities that are aimed to help man show their strength, bravery, and skills. Several communities in the South and Central Andes of Peru have kept such rituals since pre-Columbian times and one such is called La Danza de las Tijeras or the Scissors Dance.

The general idea is "cuadrillas" (teams of dressed men who represent different communities) dance in turns to the sounds of violins and harps. This competition, called Atipanakuy, could be simple but for the difficulty of steps and acrobatic movements and also the pair of 25 cm long iron rods, that resemble scissors, and which are held in the right hand of the dancer. Blades should continue clicking during the whole dance, which sometimes lasts for ten or even twelve hours, and it is not a rare occasion that dancers get hurt.

Nevertheless, according to local beliefs, scissor dancers sign an agreement with the devil when they perform La Danza de las Tijeras to stay alive. Moreover, there is a historic fact that the Catholic church allowed the performances to happen only during its holidays, and dressed men couldn't enter the church in their costumes with small mirrors and golden fringes.

Today Scissors Dances can be seen during various local festivals during the dry period between May and September. In addition, Christmas time is when the Atipanacuy festivals take place in several urban settings. The best places to watch the dance are Ayacucho, Lima, Huaycan, Junín, and Arequipa.

Practical info

What is the significance of Scissors Dancers signing an agreement with the devil?

One of the key local beliefs around La Danza de las Tijeras is that Scissors Dancers sign an agreement with the devil to stay alive during the performance. The dance is a deeply religious and mystical ceremony that has been practiced for centuries. The belief is that the devil has the power to prolong their lives during the dance, which can last up to twelve hours in some cases. Scissors Dancers hold great respect and belief in this ancient Andean ritual. Show more

Who are cuadrillas, and what is their role in La Danza de las Tijeras?

Cuadrillas are groups of men in traditional dress that represent specific communities participating in La Danza de las Tijeras, also known as Atipanakuy. Depending on the region they belong to, each Cuadrilla has a unique style of dress, rhymes, and headdresses. The performance of each team is creative and differs regarding music and acrobatics. The competition is challenging because of the difficulty of the steps and movements and the high level of skill and endurance required of the dancers. Show more

When is the ideal time to witness the Scissors Dance in Peru?

To experience La Danza de las Tijeras or Scissors Dance, it is advisable to visit Peru during the dry season, between May and September or late December. Several local festivals are held during this time in many parts of the country where Scissors Dance can be enjoyed. The Atipanacuy festival, celebrated during Christmas, is an excellent time to witness hundreds of Scissors Dancers competing dramatically for glory, honor and gold. Show more

Where are the best places to enjoy La Danza de las Tijeras in Peru?

Ayacucho, Lima, Huaycan, Junín and Arequipa are the best places to watch La Danza de las Tijeras. Ayacucho is known as the capital of Scissors Dance and holds the most extensive and popular Scissors Dance festival, attracting teams from all over Peru. Lima, the country's capital, holds a Scissor Dance competition during the Senor de los Milagros celebrations in October. Huaycan, Junín, and Arequipa each host significant Scilssor Dance festivals that have to be seen to appreciate the beauty and intensity of this ancient Andean ritual. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin