The scissors dance is performed by inhabitants of Quechua villages and communities in the south-central Andes of Peru, and now in urban settings. This competitive ritual dance is performed during dry months coinciding with the main phases of the agricultural calendar. The scissors dance takes its name from the pair of polished iron rods, resembling scissors blades, wielded by each dancer in his right hand. Together with a violinist and a harpist, a dancer forms a cuadrilla (team) that represents a given village or community. To perform, two or more cuadrillas face each other, and the dancers must strike the blades together in time to the rhythm of the accompanying musicians, while performing a choreographed duel of step-dancing, acrobatics and increasingly demanding movements. The competition or atipanakuy may last up to ten hours, and physical ability, quality of the instruments, and expertise of the accompanying musicians, are all evaluated to determine the winner. The dancers wear outfits embroidered with golden fringes, multicoloured sequins and small mirrors, but while in costume are forbidden from entering churches because of the tradition that their abilities are the result of a pact with the devil. Regardless, the scissors dance has become a popular part of Catholic festivities. The physical and spiritual knowledge implicit in the dance is passed on orally from master to student, with each cuadrilla of dancers and musicians giving pride to its village of origin.
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