Our Hips Don't Lie

Many say that the best way to get to know someone is to go on vacation with them. We have climbed mountains together, eaten strange foods, regretting eating that food a few hours later, laughed together, learned new words together, exposed secrets together, and now we're discovering that yes Americans can dance!

It’s another wonderful morning, the sky is blue, and the park is full of people walking, talking, and simply enjoying life. I’m sure plenty of students have written how different life is here in Trujillo, Peru and I’m going to say it again. We are truly blessed to have this experience of not only living with a host family, learning more Spanish, and checking off items from our bucket list, but we also get the opportunity to dance, and no, no twerking here. After our wonderful classes and lunch break, we come together in the basement of El Cultural, some nervous, others jumping with excitement and the rest wishing they went to the bathroom first. Not exactly knowing what we were about to get into except that we are going to learn a dance called the Marinera, and no the US marines do not dance this. The Marinera is a coastal dance of Peru, a very elegant and romantic dance that uses handkerchiefs as props. This dance is the most popular traditional dance of Peru and the city of Trujillo was declared national capital of this dance.

We start by introducing ourselves to our dance professor, Lito Zamudio, a very energetic and aesthetic man. He teaches us a bit of history of the dance and basic steps. The Marinera is different to most dances in which the woman controls everything and the man tries to make the woman fall in love with his by treating her like a queen. Pretty great, am I right ladies? Although this dance was no walk in the park, the dance is lead with the back leg which goes on a beat that (as a beginner) you can’t really hear. No matter, with all our positive attitudes we laughed at our mistakes, kept practicing and soon we were pros, kind of. Based off my observations I could tell that the most difficult part of this dance was, the posture, foot placement, which way to go when the music changed and basically… everything. In the northern areas of Peru, this dance is taught in schools beginning at a young age, and once at an older age the dance changes from cute to elegant and a battle between the man and woman. Men fight to get the attention from the woman and the woman plays hard to get in a flirtatious way until she accepts him. When she accepts the attention from the man they dance together with fast feet movements. As challenging as this dance was we all left sweaty and with smiles on our faces.

After 4 classes of the elegant Marinera we changed it up and began to learn a dance called AfroPeruano. This dance required less elegant movement and more hip shaking! Today was our second class and many students are discovering that their hip and buttocks muscles do more than just help you walk and sit. This dance requires more fast movements and a lot of hip circles. I think it’s safe to say that we all had a grand time finding our inner Shakira. Being able to not only hear and watch such cultural dances but being able to learn and personally experience the music of Peru shape the way we move. Learning that yes, there is more to dancing than just ´´dropping it like its hot´´ and that dancing can be more than it seems. Dancing can be a story, a romantic conversation, and an expression of love or hatred but most importantly it can be a key to bringing people together.

When it came to moving the hips, some of us came more naturally to it than others.