Colombian folkloric dances with Carmen Lopez

Carmen Lopez (or Grupo de Danzas Folclóricas “Carmen Lopez”) is the performing folkloric dance group of the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia. It was founded by a woman named Carmen Lopez in 1965 and was recognized by the university in 1978. The current leader of the group is former dancer Mr. Francisco Emerson Castañero. I went to their performance in Batallón Pichincha in Cali.

What is folkloric dance?

Folkloric dances are traditional dances transmitting the cultural heritage of a certain country. As Colombia is culturally a very heterogeneous country, also its dance culture is amazingly varied. There’s the Pacific Coast with its African influences, the inland with Andean influence, the Caribbean, the rainforest… And what groups like Carmen Lopez do is keep these traditions alive, both in Colombia and abroad.

The dances performed at Batallón Pichincha

The folkloric dances of Colombia include dances such as Currulao, Cumbia and Bambuco. However, in Batallón Pichincha Carmen Lopez performed three dances: Cuadro Paisa, El Pizón and La Chicha.

Cuadro Paisa is a set of three dances of the farmers in Antioquia.

El Pizón – a dance of the farmers of the Pacific Coast.

La Chicha of the farmers in the inlands of Colombia. The particularity of the latter is that it’s danced with a glass full of chicha – an alcoholic drink made out of fermented corn – on top of the dancer’s heads. Legend has it that the dance originates from pub evenings where, after getting drunk, people made bets that they could dance with a glass full of alcohol on top of their heads!

And here’s a short video of Cuadro Paisa and El Pizón. It got simply too dark to film the Chicha, but at least the first two can still be somewhat seen… The best part of the whole show was actually the audience that went completely crazy during the Pizón!

How I ended up with Carmen Lopez?

One of the dancers of the group, Isabella, is my Calenian salsa teacher. She used to dance in the world famous Salsa Ballet of Cali, yet nowadays concentrates mostly on folklore – in fact, my salsa classes have just ended, as Isabella is heading for a European tour with Carmen Lopez. At Batallón Pichincha Isabella danced La Chicha.

For folkloric music, don’t miss out on the rehearsal of CauCaribe in Popayán.

Written by Sissi Korhonen
Exploring, interpreting and understanding cultures through local languages and people. An advocate for intercultural communication as a basis for diversity acceptance and human equality.