Joropo: Venezuela’s Traditional Dance
Venezuela’s traditional dance is called Joropo. Its name and characteristics are an amalgamation of history and culture that I will unravel in this blog post. Join me in exploring the Venezuelan authentic traditional dance, declared Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación (National Cultural Heritage) in 2014.
The Arrival of Joropo in Venezuela
The Venezuelan dance originally arrived in Caracas in the 17th century under the name of Fandango.
Fandango—of Spanish origin—began as performances at prestigious people’s parties, like those who owned cacao haciendas.
When the Venezuelan farmers working at the haciendas heard this distinctive music, they tried to imitate it as well as adding some of their own sounds, such as maracas. Because they gradually transformed the celebrations into those that aligned with their culture, they decided to change the name of these parties to Joropo.
Slowly, they included personalized dances with waltz variations that intended to make figures at the beat of the music. It was then that Joropo was no longer the name given to the parties but to the now traditional music and dance.
Joropo is unique to Venezuela, as they mix sounds and instruments from several regions that have influenced their history and culture to turn this traditional dance into a custom close to their hearts.
Although Joropo is the general term for Venezuelan dance overall, it has some variations according to the region they perform it in.
Although there are basic characteristics that identify Joropo, every region adds a touch of their essence in their performances. Some performers add different figures and steps to personalize the dance.
The main regions where they perform it are:
The three variants of the Venezuelan dance are:
They dance this version in Los Llanos (the Plains) between Colombia and Venezuela. This is the most traditional form of Venezuelan dance and music because this is the region in which it originated. It was here where the European colonizers arrived in the first place and influenced the native farmers to create their own dances.
This region includes the accordion in their traditional music.
Joropo central features voices rather than just music.
Looking forward to seeing South America? Check out: 9 Coolest Road Trips You Want To Take in South America
There is no Joropo without the traditional costumes and the peculiar sounds Venezuelans enjoy their traditional dance with.
The country’s traditional costume is called Liqui-Liqui and they wear it with alpargatas (espadrilles).
Espadrilles are not exclusive to Joropo—they are also Venezuelans’ shoes for special occasions.
The origin of Liqui-Liqui is undetermined. Some say the costume derives from a military suit that the British introduced during their time in the territory. The name comes from the french word Liquette.
However, others associate the origin of the suit to the Asian military suits due to the round style of the neck. Regardless of the many ways Liqui-Liqui might have come to the country, it represents an important part of Venezuela’s traditions.
On the other hand, espadrilles arrived in America due to European influence, especially from Spain and Portugal.
Women dazzle the dance floor with floral bodysuits with a turtleneck and flashy floral arrangements decorating their hair and bodysuits.
Men generally wear a fancy suit—slacks and guama hair hats with black espadrilles.
On occasion, they also wear knee-high khakis and a black or white shirt—made of cotton or linen.
They never forget to wear the emblematic round-neck jacket.
According to the region or variation of Joropo, the Venezuelan dance generally has the objective of forming figures by taking each other’s hands or forming them without holding hands. There are three forms of Venezuela’s traditional dance.
This version of Joropo is a modified waltz. Dancers form an archway and one of the dancers walks underneath it along with their partner.
Dancers hold hands, facing each other and they hit the floor following the music’s rhythm in a fast-paced manner.
Dancers also face each other in this version, but they hit the floor silently with the tips of their toes.
Fun fact! In Spanish, escoba or escobilla means “broom”. This word gives its name to this particular dance because performers move their feet in short forward and backward steps as if they were sweeping the floor.
Joropo represents a variety of cultures coming together, which explains why this music includes several instruments that we usually wouldn’t consider putting together! The Venezuelan dance makes the floor vibrate at the beat of these instruments and more:
Cuatro is the trademark instrument of Joropo, as colonizers brought it to the Americas due to its versatility. They used it for leisure but it was an important part of church music too.
Additionally, Venezuelans carefully include European, Indigenous, and Afro Descendent sounds.
While Joropo llanero includes nylon-stringed harp and maracas, Joropo central uses a metal-stringed harp, maracas and it also includes voices.
On the other hand, Joropo oriental uses the guitar, bandolin, cuatro, and accordion.
With the intrigue this unique Venezuelan dance creates, I know you want to learn more about this South American country. Here are some places for you to visit!
1. Ciudad Bolívar
The streets of this city hold history and heritage. They remind people of the struggles of gaining independence from European colonizers. Simon Bolívar named it the temporary capital city back in 1818.
2. Los Llanos
Joropo was born in Venezuela’s grasslands—a landscape that promises a stunning view of wildlife, majestic rivers and peace of mind.
3. The Andes
If you’re up for the challenge, hiking at The Andes is a surreal and unforgettable experience.
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Sign up for a free class today and take a step further into your language learning journey! Schedule a class at the time that suits you best, get comfortable at home or any place you prefer, and begin a life-improving journey with us.
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