Tangible or Intangible
Intantigle | Inmaterial | Imaterial
Image | Imagen | Imagem
Image credits | Créditos de imagen | Créditos de imagem
Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Peru
Title, name | Titulo, nombre | Título, nome
Scissors dance / Danza de tijeras
Short description | Descripción corta | Descrição resumida
The scissors dance is performed by inhabitants of Quechua villages and communities in the south-central Andes of Peru, and now in urban settings. This competitive ritual dance is performed during dry months coinciding with the main phases of the agricultural calendar. The scissors dance takes its name from the pair of polished iron rods, resembling scissors blades, wielded by each dancer in his right hand. Together with a violinist and a harpist, a dancer forms a ''cuadrilla'' (team) that represents a given village or community. To perform, two or more ''cuadrillas'' face each other, and the dancers must strike the blades together in time to the rhythm of the accompanying musicians, while performing a choreographed duel of step-dancing, acrobatics and increasingly demanding movements. The competition or ''atipanakuy'' may last up to ten hours, and physical ability, quality of the instruments, and expertise of the accompanying musicians, are all evaluated to determine the winner. The dancers wear outfits embroidered with golden fringes, multicoloured sequins and small mirrors, but while in costume are forbidden from entering churches because of the tradition that their abilities are the result of a pact with the devil. Regardless, the scissors dance has become a popular part of Catholic festivities. The physical and spiritual knowledge implicit in the dance is passed on orally from master to student, with each ''cuadrilla'' of dancers and musicians giving pride to its village of origin.

La danza de las tijeras se ha venido interpretado tradicionalmente por los habitantes de los pueblos y las comunidades quechuas del sur de cordillera andina central del Perú y, desde hace algún tiempo, por poblaciones de las zonas urbanas del país. Esta danza ritual, que reviste la forma de una competición, se baila durante la estación seca del año y su ejecución coincide con fases importantes del calendario agrícola. La danza de las tijeras debe su nombre a las dos hojas de metal pulimentado, parecidas a las de las tijeras, que los bailarines blanden en su diestra. La danza se ejecuta en cuadrillas y cada una de ellas –formada por un bailarín, un arpista y un violinista– representa a una comunidad o un pueblo determinado. Para interpretar la danza, se ponen frente a frente dos cuadrillas por lo menos y los bailarines, al ritmo de las melodías interpretadas por los músicos que les acompañan, tienen que entrechocar las hojas de metal y librar un duelo coreográfico de pasos de danza, acrobacias y movimientos cada vez más difíciles. Ese duelo entre los bailarines, llamado atipanakuy en quechua, puede durar hasta diez horas, y los criterios para determinar quién es el vencedor son: la capacidad física de los ejecutantes, la calidad de los instrumentos y la competencia de los músicos que acompañan la danza. Los bailarines, que llevan atuendos bordados con franjas doradas, lentejuelas y espejitos, tienen prohibido penetrar en el recinto de las iglesias con esta indumentaria porque sus capacidades, según la tradición, son fruto de un pacto con el diablo. Esto no ha impedido que la danza de las tijeras se haya convertido en un componente apreciado de las festividades católicas. Los conocimientos físicos y espirituales implícitos en la danza se transmiten oralmente de maestros a alumnos, y cada cuadrilla de bailarines y músicos constituye un motivo de orgullo para los pueblos de los que es originaria.
Community or culture | Comunidad o cultura | Comunidade ou cultura
Practitioners, Autor | Practicantes, Autores | Praticantes, Autores
The inhabitants of the Quechua villages and communities of the Apurimac, Ayacucho and Huancavelica regions.
Museum | Museo | Museu
Place | Local | Local
The Apurimac, Ayacucho and Huancavelica departments, located in the South Central Andes in the Republic of Peru, between 2,500 and 4,000 masl
Country | País
Language | Idioma
Quechua, Español


Video | Vídeo
Video credits | Créditos de vídeo | Créditos vídeo
Audio Credits | Créditos de Audio
3D object | Objeto 3D
3D Credits | Créditos 3D
Text | Texto
Text credits | Créditos del texto | Créditos do texto
Record date | Fecha de registro | Data do registo
Image 1 | Imagen 1 | Imagem 1
Image 1 credits | Créditos imagen 1 | Créditos da imagem 1
Instituto Nacional de Cultura
Image 2 | Imagen 2 | Imagem 2
Image 2 credits | Créditos imagen 2 | Créditos da imagem 2
Instituto Nacional de Cultura
Image 3 | Imagen 3 | Imagem 3
Image 3 credits | | Créditos da imagem 3Créditos imagen 3
Instituto Nacional de Cultura
Image 4 | Imagen 4 | Imagem 4
Image 4 credits | Créditos imagen 4 | Créditos da imagem 4
Instituto Nacional de Cultura


Origin, history | Origen, historia | Origem, história
Scissors’ dance was created four centuries ago in the South Central Andes of Peru, in a culturallinguistic region known as Chanka (departments of Apurimac, Ayacucho and Huancavelica). It is traced back to an indigenous millenarist resistance movement that emerged in the region shortly after the arrival of the conquistadors (XVI century a.D.). This movement -- known as taki unquy or ‘dance fever’ because its followers expressed their resistance mainly through frenetic dances performed by individuals who claimed were possessed by pre-Hispanic deities -- called for the return of aboriginal beliefs and customs together with all aspects related to Spaniards’ invasion.
The current practice of the Scissors’ dance as a result of combining elements of their aboriginal worldview with Western musical instruments and clothes demonstrates that cultural, symbolic and ideological diversity has persisted in present-day Peru. It therefore attests Andean peoples’
ability to adapt to changing cultural contexts by means of syncretism of foreign and aboriginal elements.
The Scissors’ dancer is called ‘saqra’ in Apurimac, ‘danzaq’ or ‘tusuk’ in Ayacucho, and ‘gala’ in Huancavelica, and all consider themselves as Scissors’ dancers and the dance is perceived by all of them as one and only cultural expression. The dance consists of a symbolic and choreographic duel of step dancing, acrobatic movements and physical abilities displaying a sequence of stages that demand ever-increasing skills and challenges performed to the rhythm of the violin and the harp. These physical trials are not incompatible with existing international human rights instruments, the requirements of mutual respect among peoples, and of sustainable development. The name of the dance derives from a main and distinctive feature of the choreography, consisting in the dancer’s display of two glittering iron rods shaped and polished to resemble loose scissors blades that are grasped with his right hand, while holding a silk scarf with the left. Thus, a key element is for the dancer to constantly strike these rods to the rhythm of the music without missing a beat while performing his acrobatics. The dancers are dressed in a bordered outfit embroidered with golden fringes, multicoloured sequins and small mirrors.
The display of the dance’s main elements, such as the wardrobe, musical instruments and tunes, as well as the actual performance of the dance, all have a ritual character. The dancer is seen as an individual who establishes a direct relation with the wamanis, tutelary spirits of the mountains that give him wisdom as well as the necessary strength and endurance to perform the demanding acrobatic movements that form part of his repertoire. The musical instruments and
the metal rods or ‘scissors’ are also related to protective entities and must be consecrated in special rituals to acquire their full virtues. The ability of the dancer, the quality of the instruments, as well as the expertise of the accompanying musicians, are all taken into consideration to determine the winner.
As a competition dance, two or more teams known as cuadrillas face each other in alternance. Each cuadrilla is formed by a dancer, a violinist and a harpist, and it represents a different village or community. This musical-choreographic competition can take up to 10 hours in total, and is called ‘atipanakuy’ (‘competition’). In time, the ‘cuadrilla’ acquires prestige and acknowledgement for its members’ expertise and becomes a symbol of identity that gives pride to its village of origin.
The Scissors’ dance is performed during the dry months of the year (in the Chanka region, between April and December), and coincides with the main phases of the Andean highlands’ agricultural calendar, such as the harvest, the cleaning of the water irrigation systems, and the sowing of the land. These phases are closely related to the main events of the Catholic calendar, between Good Friday and Christmas. Other important events occur in between, such as Corpus Christi festivity and patron saints’ feasts in the villages of the zone.
From a Catholic viewpoint, however, the Scissors’ dance is associated with the forbidden and the evil. Oral tradition has it that the dancer makes a pact with the devil in order to acquire physical ability and endurance. Many of the performance names of the dancers are related to the underworld. Maybe this is the main reason why dancers dressed in their traditional outfits are not allowed to enter the churches. Nevertheless, Scissors’ dance and its dancers are an essential part of Catholic popular festivities in the Chanka region because the Colonial authorities could not suppress it in its less militant versions and decided to incorporate it into the Catholic rites designed for aboriginal peoples (i.e., a syncretic version of Catholicism).
The dance is taught orally from master to student and the learning process involves, besides the choreographic and acrobatic techniques, a body of spiritual knowledge which includes a veneration and awareness of nature and of the tutelary entities of the Andean vision of the world.
There is even a popular belief that the great dance masters of previous times had the ability of healing sickness and predicting the future.
As a consequence of poverty, political violence, and lack of opportunities, many inhabitants of the Andean area, including dancers and musicians, were forced to migrate to urban areas and adapt to a new social context. In the urban areas, some elements of Scissors’ dance have been modified, in particular the way it is learned, while the rest of the elements have remained mainly unchanged. In general, the dance’s ritual significance and its value as an identity reference for the communities located in the southern area of Peru have remained constant. Thus, Scissors’ dancers, as well as their musicians, have now become bearers and disseminators of Andean culture in urban contexts where this expression is revitalized and acquires new meanings.
In short, the Scissors’ dance is an example of the capability the people in the Chanka region have to adapt their cultural expressions to new religious contexts and social change. Due to its peculiar characteristics, this dance has become an important identity symbol for this region.
Associated heritage | Patrimonio asociado | Património associado
Cross reference | Referencias cruzadas | Referências cruzadas
Present condition | Condición actual | Estado actual
Threats | Amenazas | Ameaças
Safeguard | Salguardia | Salvaguarda
Bibliography | Bibliografía | Bibliografia


Type of object | Tipo de objeto | Tipo de objecto
Domain | Dominio | Domínio
Please select
Category | Categorías | Categoria
Please select | Seleccionar
Materials & techniques | Materiales y técnicas | Materiais & Tecnicas
Measurements | Medidas
Aditional info | Información adicional | Informação adicional


Domain | Dominio | Dominío
Performing arts | Artes performativas
Category | Categoria
Artistic and correlated manifestations | Espectáculo y entretenimiento | Manifestações artísticas e correlacionadas, Musical and Correlated Manifestations | Manifestaciones musicales y correlacionadas | Manifestações musicais e correlacionadas, Theatrical and Performative Manifestations | Manifestaciones teatrales y performativas | Manifestações teatrais e performativas
Periodicity | Periodicidad | Periodicidade
Transmission | Trasmisión | Transmissão
The level or organization reached by the scissors dancers and musicians, expressed in the continuity of the two associations that group them, is a demonstration of their commitment as bearers of the element. The Asociacion de Danzantes de Tijeras y Musicos del Peru was created in 1984 and gathers the dancers and musicians of the Apurimac and Ayacucho regions. It makes, ever since its inception, multiple efforts for the continuity and safeguarding the originality of the dance. Among its achievements we can stress the three encounters of dancers and musicians which have constituted a valuable space for reflection on this expression and its connotations. The Asociacion Folklorica de Danzantes de Tijeras y Musicos de Huancavelica was created in 1991 and gathers the dancers and musicians of the Huancavelica region. It also carries out important efforts for the continuity of the dance.
It must be stressed that, at the initiative of these two associations, the current dossier has been drafted for its candidature to the Representative List. During the preparation of the dossier, both associations have shown a great deal of commitment towards this goal.