So Alissa met me at seven pm, after having run around nonstop in the two hours since we had separated, collecting transcripts of her interviews, paying people, lengthening her gift list and still taking care of me. So she was pretty cooked as we walked up the canyon to the shopping district. She has two more days to finish up her life in Bolivia, and as you can imagine has a lot of conflicting feelings. Fortunately we successfully found a few more gifts and sooner than expected planted our rear ends in a ringside seat at Pena Huari, a tourist dinner show featuring two bands, six dancers, twelve dances, some solo guitar and a pretty good dinner!
Bolivia takes a lot of pride in its artistic heritage. Alissa told me a story about going out clubbing in Cochabamba and, after a night full of hip hop, techno and pop, ending at 3am with all the partiers doing Bolivian folk dances right there on the club dance floor. Pretty cool. The show we saw was designed to present music and dances from all regions of the country. As you can see from the photos there are a lot of elaborate costumes and masks; even allowing for the ‘garish quotient’ of tourist shows, some of these are over the top. On the other hand we had seen many of them in the folk museum’s mask room so I assume they are authentic. The dancing was broadly similar throughout, with a couple of exceptions; the men using stomp-step, sashay and skipping type steps, bodies leaning in arcs; the women with similar steps but using twisting torso movements with curved arms. Lots of yipping going on. There were two dances I recognized from SF Carnaval: one with the white outfits accented by brightly colored belts and headscarves, the other, with music Alissa identified as Afro-Bolivian, pretty much straight ahead samba with gymnastic style acrobatics from a couple of the men. The finale was three romantic duets, all to the same music, but from different regions of the country with different costumes and attitude; one rather formal, one structured but softer, and one unabashedly energetic and fun.
And of course, they dragged the audience up there, too. Me. The first time, I dutifully tried to mimic and learn the movements of the dance; by the third time, I just took the gal in hand and did some swing dancing. The music of the second band was great, we bought their CD. I have no way of putting a piece up here for you today, but stay tuned, maybe Alissa can email me an MP3. all in all, it was a fine end to an interesting and surprising visit. I was just going to see Alissa in her element, little did I know I would end up appreciating the country so much. Now it’s on to Peru! Enjoy the photos below.








The Band

La Pena