Since time immemorial, mothers all over the world have been telling their children not to run with scissors.
The exception to this is in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where there’s an ancient style of dance where people dance with scissors.
For the first time ever in Rexburg, ID, the Yawar Chicchi Scissor Dancers are coming to the Idaho International Summerfest on July 7th, 2014.
The use of scissors in dance may seem odd to the Western audience. The actual instruments used are unsharpened thin sheets of metal, not quite 10 inches long, and are used in a fashion closer to that of castanets by the dancers. The festive origins of the dance trace back to the need to amuse and worship during communal work such as planting, harvesting, and shearing the llamas and alpacas.
To the outsider, while the dance appears as more of a competitive, impressive display of physical skill, endurance, and gymnastic aptitude, there is another layer to the demonstration. The dance, performed to the music of a harp and violin, is a ceremonial ritual to communicate with the Incan gods of the mountains, earth, and stars. It’s a cultural symbol of the Earth’s fertility and prayer for a good harvest.
The dance itself is traditionally held in the style of a competition, made up of a harpist, violinist, and a dancer in bright costume. The dancers themselves portray the gods and perform ever-escalating feats.
While the exact history of the Scissors Dance is unknown, the Spanish influence in what’s performed today is undeniable. When Pizarro arrived in Peru in the 16th century, the Spaniards saw the feats performed by the dancers and thought it to be magic. According to some sources, the predecessors of the dancers were priests, fortune-tellers, witch-doctors, and medicine men.
The Spanish banned the dance from being performed as they introduced Christianity to the Andeans. The dancers were driven out from the communities. Over time, though, the dance was allowed again, though only at Christian ceremonies.
Currently, the scissors dance is an artistic symbol and an important aspect of traditional Peruvian culture.
The Yawar Chicchi dance company is made up of the children, grand children, and students of a famous master of the Scissors Dance, named Chicchi Para. A traveling dancer since the age of 5, he was known for his footwork and won over one thousand prizes for his performances.