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Los Boraa as represented

darken their skin before performing the selva

by Peruvian folkdance institutions: PERFORMANCE IN LIMA

dance, where skin color (an aesthetic tied to race distinctions) becomes the essential “costume.” Personally, these images provoked mem-

La danza de la selva is performed within folkloric institutions in order to represent

ories of minstrelsy practices in racist U.S. entertainment history. My lens translated the painted skin, along with the exoticized dance as a symbol of power relations and ap-

“authentic” Amazonian indigenous culture of Peru. It is commonly performed by urban mestizo1 folk dancers in touristy settings and dance contests, particularly in the capital,

propriation over the marginalized absent body it tries to represent.

Lima. The five-minute circulated choreography and dance style provide folkdance institutions a way to include Amazonian culture in their repertoires. Before it is

How did the folk dancers see themselves as representing “la selva” with the use of skin color as a self-conscious add on? During group interviews I questioned the need to darken the skin. I received the following short responses from five different folkdance

performed, it is commonly announced as generally as the title implies—“the jungle dance”—seldom adding any specificity to what community it attempts to represent. As

troupes:

the Amazon comprises more than 60% of Peru’s geographical makeup, including over 30 different native communities and 46 different languages, this one popular staple

• "I’m too white, it would look just horrible ... Imagine my pale legs jumping to this; how embarrassing!" • "To represent the true Amazonian. They get a lot of sun ... no they are born that way, it doesn’t wash off for them!" (jokingly laughing)

dance seems hardly sustainable, in the way of its claims. La danza de la selva’s performative fallacy of representing the whole through parts, or Amazonian native com-

• "Because their skin is dark. We have to be authentic in representing the image the way it is, otherwise it will look fake."

munities as one unit is exemplified by what ethnographer Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett refers to as the “ethnographic fragment”.

• "Look at me! I’m already brown, I don’t need that makeup!" (smiling) (This answer was given by the solo dancer and group leader who opened choreography of the piece.)

Whether the representation essentializes (you are seeing the quintessence of the Balinese) or totalizes (you are seeing the whole through the part), the ethnographic fragment returns with all the problems of capturing, inferring, constituting, and presenting the whole through parts. (BKG p. 55)

• (response to the latter) "No, but now you need s l a n t e d e y e s ! Yo u ' r e n o t “ c h i n o ” enough!" (laughing) • "To be more “charapa” (a staple name given to Amazonian natives) It's indigenous." • "They have beautiful skin ... I wish I had that." • "Its part of the image ... haven’t you seen them?"

The “part” that claims to represent the whole is further delineated with a key objectified body part. The skin. Commonly, dancers will

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The HotSpring Quarterly - Sept. 2012  

This publication represents the work of a community of thinkers, researchers, reporters, educators, innovators and committed change-makers,...

The HotSpring Quarterly - Sept. 2012  

This publication represents the work of a community of thinkers, researchers, reporters, educators, innovators and committed change-makers,...

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