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¡Vamos a bailar!

Although it is a common stereotype to assume that all Latin Americans dance, it is true that music and dance play a significant role in Latin American culture. Starting with Salsa, probably one of the best known Latin American dances around the world, there is a significant variety such as Tango, Cumbia,Vallenato, Merengue, Mambo, Danzón, Bachata, Samba, Mapalé. Many of these dances first appeared in coastal regions in Latin America. Even though Latin America is a region and not one country, like Simón Bolivar wanted it to be, music and dance are definitely a unifying characteristic among Latin American people.

Dances vary according to specific areas and their particular cultures. However, the importance of including dance in daily life, traditions and celebrations is a shared pattern among Latinos.

As for Ecuadorian dances, we have many that come from indigenous backgrounds. Some are a fusion of indigenous and Spanish traditions. Some examples include El Pasillo (Julio Jaramillo!), San Juanito, Cachullapi, Pasacalle and other folkloric dances. In fact, similar dances can be found in Perú and Bolivia (our neighboring Andean countries) due to the fact that these two countries share a similar history of mestizaje. The celebration of the Inti Raymi (Inca Sun God) is also popular in Andean countries. This event includes dancing as well. Moreover, Ecuador also has la Bomba and Marimba, both music from Ecuadorian African descent. Also, Bandas de Pueblo or “Town Bands” are prevailing in small towns. The band plays in special occasions or when people get together. These bands usually use trumpets and drums to play typical, national tunes. Bandas de Pueblo are most common in the highland region of Ecuador. Other instruments in Ecuadorian Andean music include el rondador, which looks like many different sized flutes glued together in scale.

As I mentioned before, music and dance are an ice breaker for social reunions in Latin American culture. In fact, since its origins come from indigenous rituals and Spanish tradition, it is essential. The mix of different dances is evident in parties, weddings, concerts, baptisms, Quinceañeras, and family get togethers. In other words, no matter the cause of the celebration, it will end, usually, with people dancing together. Because of globalization, the evolution of dance in Ecuador is a mix of local and international music such as Rock, Reggae, Indie and Pop. Tecnocumbia and Regetón are examples of these mixes.

I, personally, love to dance. And I mean that. I love to dance because I feel it is one of the best ways express myself. I was raised around music. My father is a musician who played the accordion ever since we were children. He was always happy and joyful at parties and brought his accordion with him. He played classical European pieces as well as Latin American rhythms such as Cumbias, Salsas and Merengues. As a typical Latin American family, we like to dance. Here, at Willamette I also took a course where we learned basic steps from Ballet, Jazz, Modern Dance and Tap Dance. It was the perfect combination to taste a bit of everything. However, the dance I feel most comfortable with is probably Modern Dance. It gives you freedom, it is very personal.

Although it may sound cliché, dancing makes me forget what is going on around me because it connects me with myself and the specific sound, like a drum or a clarinet, that I am listening to. It is the feeling of enjoying the moment. You are so connected that you forget your fears. It is just letting go, just feeling light within your body by perceiving music, and feel joyful about being alive. As Billy Elliot says when the Ballet teachers ask him, “What does it feel like when you are dancing?”: “Dunno…so it feels good, so stiff and that, but once I get going then, I´ll forget everything…and…so I disappear. So I disappear, like I feel a change in me whole body, and…like this fire in me body. Just there, flying…like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah…like electricity”.

Here are some videos of Ecuadorian dancing and music:

San Juanito dance:


Bomba dance:


Marimba music:


Las tres Marías singing “Me piquio”:


Famous “Bomba chuchaqui”:


Julio Jaramillo singing “Nuestro juramento”:


Chilean Band “Inti-Illimani”, Andean music, “Bailando, Bailando”:


Inti-Illimani, “Papel de plata”:


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