La Cueca – Get On Your Dancing Shoes, September is Right Around the Corner

September is right around the corner. In Chile that means Fiestas Patrias (National Festivities). In other words, La Cueca will be danced all month and all over the country, especially between September 17-19. So, in order to prepare for this month of festivities, wouldn’t it be a good idea to start practicing now?

 Photo courtesy of www.radiouchile.cl
Photo courtesy of www.radiouchile.cl

La Cueca was declared Chile’s national dance in September 1979 as it was considered the most widely known throughout the country, and because it allowed folk singers to keep up with their oral tradition. Historians have traced La Cueca’s roots back to the Peruvian Zamacueca (a dance from the colonial period).

 Photo courtesy of www.laotravoz.cl
Photo courtesy of www.laotravoz.cl

This dance, like most, is about a man conquering a woman. Some say it resembles a rooster conquering one of its hens. It is danced by two dancers, each of whom dances around one another inside his or her own half circle, making a full circle.

Originally, La Cueca was danced in salons, chinganas (a dive bar of sorts) and recreational estates. Through the years it was “cleaned up” and became a staple of entertainment at restaurants, more reputable bars and official ceremonies, associated with the Chilean Huaso (dressed formally with a black hat, a poncho and spurs) and La China (dressed in a colorfully patterned dress and flowers in her hair).

 Photo by Pablo Reyes
Photo by Pablo Reyes

During the last 10 years it has gained popularity, especially among Chilean youth. It’s thought that much of it is thanks to Los Tres playing Cuecas in their MTV Unplugged album in 1995 and then founding the Yein Fonda a year later in September as an alternative to the traditional Fondas set up for Chilean Independence celebrations.

Chilean actor Daniel Muñoz has also helped younger generations get a taste for La Cueca, playing and recording albums with bands such as 3x7 Veintiuna and Los Marujos.

 Daniel Muñoz y Los Marujos. Photo by Pablo Reyes
Daniel Muñoz y Los Marujos. Photo by Pablo Reyes

There are places all over Santiago to dance La Cueca year round, plus listen to the live bands playing the songs, filled with younger generations mixed in with older couples. The places are colorful and full of life. Couples, young and old, dance many variations of La Cueca, some sexier and flirtier (known as La Cueca Brava or Urbana), and others more formal.

As a beginner, watching them from the sidelines can be a bit intimidating, but there is always someone willing to ask you onto the dance floor to show you the ropes.

Here's a list of places you might want to check out, either to start practicing for the upcoming September festivities or to simply go out with friends, drink the ever popular Terremoto, or some wine, eat some food and enjoy the bands. Many offer lessons if you don’t feel like jumping in eyes closed and feet first.

 Esther Zamora. Photo by Pablo Reyes
Esther Zamora. Photo by Pablo Reyes

Club Matadero
Barrio Franklin
Santa Rosa 2260 (2nd floor)
Metro Franklin
For lessons: www.clubmatadero.cl

Chingana Gold Nest
Santiago Centro
Santo Domingo 2980
Metro Quinta Normal

La Chimenea
Centro
Príncipe de Gales 90
For lessons: 22697-9935
Metro Moneda

La Casa de la Cueca
Ñuñoa
Matta 483, Santiago,
For lessons: zonadecuecas@gmail.com or 22634 5842
Metro Irarrázaval

Bar Victoria
Carlos Valdovinos 1951, Pedro Aguirre Cerda,
barvictoria@gmail.com
Metro El Llano

El Huaso Enrique
Calle Maipú 462, Barrio Yungay,
For lessons: 22681 5257
Metro Quinta Normal

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