Welcome to the Marinera competition. May 27, 2007 1:43pm
One of my flamenco dancer friends, who happens to be Peruvian, invited me to join her in watching a Marinera competition on Sunday.
What is Marinera? It's a Peruvian couple dance that might've had very humble beginnings but has evolved (and continues to evolve from year to year) into a highly refined art form around which serious competitions are organized every year here in the US and in Perú and I'm sure in other parts of the world. The different dance schools that were represented at this competition had banners, wore t-shirts and jackets emblazoned with their logos. The cheers, shouts and noisemaking were just as intense as you might find in a sporting event. Of course, the competition itself was held in a gymnasium complete with the yellow-tinted fluorescent lights. The concrete walls really didn't help with the acoustics. I could barely understand the Spanish, let alone appreciate the music blaring through the sound system as it echoed throughout the gym. I got used to it after awhile.
Contestants arriving. May 27, 2007 2:11pm
So there are a few regional variations of Marinera and today's competition focused on the Northern version. I don't really know exactly what distinguishes the Northern from the others but the male dancer mimics the gallant footwork of a horse--the kind used in formal ceremonies where the horse proudly lifts each hoof high with each step. The female dances barefooted and alternates between graceful steps that allow her to show off her flowing skirt and doing rhythmic footwork which is not unlike flamenco. Although being done barefoot you can't really hear the zapateado.
May 27, 2007 3:06pm
May 27, 2007 3:07pm
Anywayz, the Marinera is a dance of courtship where basically the female flirts and the guy chases and occasionally steals a kiss. There are sections where the music stops completely and from what I could tell the dancers would steal a kiss (actually just a fake "theatrical kiss" where the lips barely touch) or strike some kind of a romantic pose and the crowd would go wild with shouts and cheers.
May 27, 2007 3:08pm
May 27, 2007 3:19pm
It took me awhile to assimilate myself into this very intense ambience. I mean c'mon: I was a total newbie here and was probably one of the few non-Peruvians. It was a day for me to spend to with my friend and learn something about her culture. I also used it as an excuse to play with my new camera and get some practice in taking shots of dancers in action. Taking into account the yellowish fluorescent lighting I had to figure out how to adjust my camera's white balance a couple of times--hence the bluish hue in many of the pics. Oh well, it's a learning process so give me some time.
May 27, 2007 3:21pm
May 27, 2007 3:24pm
I realy wasn't prepared for a day-long event like this. I stayed out late after my gig at Tapeo the previous night and got up early to give a guitar lesson at 10:30am on Sunday and rushed to get on the metro by noon to meet my friend at 1:00pm. My guitar student kindly brought me a can of Red Bull. Hehe. Unfortunately, that was my breakfast and when I arrived at the Marinera competition I was already starving. But you know me: I love Peruvian food and when the caterers arrived I was the first in line to get some yummy seco de pollo, a very comforting warm plate of chicken cooked in a delicious sauce and served with beans and rice with optional salsa picante. Needless to say, after that, I was good to go for at least of couple of hours--we were invited to family BBQ afterwards (more Peruvian food, yay!).
May 27, 2007 3:31pm
May 27, 2007 3:39pm
So just as in any kind of dance there is both technique and expression. Some dancers were better at one or the other. Working with flamenco dancers all the time, I have some experience in quickly sizing up dancers just by watching a few steps, carefully watching their posture, coordination between upper and lower body etc. With the Marinera it was pretty much the same thing in a way 'cept I wasn't familiar with the vocabulary of Marinera dance moves to watch out for.
I could however, easily tell which dancers were the natural (or accomplished) performers--they were the ones who looked like they were having a great time. I can only imagine what they must be feeling and going through. The dance is difficult in itself: the choreographies are created with the intent of impressing the judges who probably see more Marinera dancing than they would care to admit.
Sometimes, there are judges that don't care about choreography at all and want to see some expression and feeling in which case, you've got to let go and improvise. And this is all going on in a highly competitive environment which requires a lot of mental focus on the part of the dancers.
May 27, 2007 5:08pm
May 27, 2007 5:08pm
At the end of each round, awards were given for first, second and third place. Tears were shed or fiercely held back.
May 27, 2007 5:25pm
May 27, 2007 5:30pm
May 27, 2007 5:31pm
May 27, 2007 5:33pm
May 27, 2007 5:34pm
May 27, 2007 5:36pm
May 27, 2007 6:11pm
May 27, 2007 6:13pm
May 27, 2007 6:36pm
May 27, 2007 6:37pm
May 27, 2007 6:42pm
May 27, 2007 6:49pm
By the end of the day, I was hooked on Marinera. I had seen enough of it to get a basic appreciation for it. Along the way, I did see some amazing emotional moments and found myself nodding and mouthing the word "Wow!" They've got some really good dancers here who've obviously been practicing all year long for this event. My friend tells me that the intensity of this event is nothing compared to the competitions held in Perú. Someday I'll go there, but in the meantime I can always checkout the vids on YouTube.
Afterwards, we went to the family BBQ got some more yummy Peruvian food and practiced my Spanish. To top off the evening, we stopped by the Silver Diner for some coffee and dessert--I guess you could say I spent the day in Perú and this was a way of "coming back" to the USA.
May 27, 2007 9:44pm
May 27, 2007 9:46pm
May 27, 2007 9:46pm
Sundae with Breyer's vanilla ice cream, caramel, walnuts and whip cream with a cherry on top. Yum! May 27, 2007 9:59pm
It's almost noon and it's time for me to get outta the house. I hope you enjoyed this little Peruvian detour. It was dance-related anyway. Just thinking about all the Peruvian food I had that day is making me hungry so I'm gonna get some lunch. I'll be getting back to some more Feria pics from last week not to mention catching up with blogs about my gigs at Las Tapas, Cabanas and Tapeo. Ciao for now!