Chielans often ask me what the national dance of the United States is and I have to admit (somewhat shamefacedly) that we either don’t have one, or I don’t know what it is. I offer square dancing, offering a do-si-do to demonstrate what I mean, but I realize that I don’t fully get the importance of a national dance, and I’m not terribly bothered by not having one.
Not so in Chile. In Chile the national dance, the cueca (KWEH-ka) if a dance of flirtation, of shuffling feet and stamping, circles, twirling and hankies held high, mimicking, it is said, the rooster’s conquest of the hen. It is also the music that you will hear repeatedly and continually for the two and a half weeks leading up to September 18th, the national holiday (fiestas patrias), and especially at the parties associated with the holiday.
The cueca is danced in couples, male and female, and while it’s a couple’s dance, there is not actually any contact between the people. Drunken people dancing the cueca are a common sight, but when people who really know how to dance it take to the stage (or the street), it’s a treat to behold. For those uninitiated to the music, which features the guitar, the harp, the tambourine and other instruments, including, occasionally the folk instrument called the charrango, pictured below, can sound a bit shrill.
Photo used by permission from bearshapedsphere.
To hear soundclips and videos of the Cueca Chilena, click on one of the videos below:
and to download cueca music for free, try this site.
To learn how to dance the cueca or see it up close, you’ll have to come to Chile! Spurs optional.
For related Fiestas Patrias posts, see: