Considered to be heavily influenced by the “Spanish” culture is a South American dance style known as Cueca. This “Latin American” dance is said to have originated from Chile during the 19th century, and was officially given the status of “national dance” on 18th September 1979. La cueca chilena, as it is known today, was gradually adapted by Chileans from the Peruvian dance known as zamacueca, which rose to prominence in Chile in the 1820s. Apart from Chile this dance style is also popular in Argentina and Bolivia. Furthermore, Cueca dance is mainly performed in the rural areas especially during national day celebrations. In addition, there are several variations of this dance style available in countries such as Bolivia and Argentina.

a. History/origin of Cueca:

It was during the 19th century that this dance first made its presence felt in Chile. Furthermore, this dance was developed in the country to be performed specifically in bars and taverns, which were extremely popular during this period. For their own gain, the Pinochet system promoted Chilean cueca songs and dances. Even though it spread throughout the nation and gained popularity, it was only done to support the government and submit to its demands because dancing to it was required at official events and other activities that they supported. It was then during the late 19th century that this dance gradually started gaining popularity in many countries in the Latin American region, and was referred to as “chilena”. The sisters, mothers, orphans, and widows find a way to use that “patriotic” symbol to express their outspoken disapproval.

La cueca sola was developed by renowned Chilean human rights activist Violeta Zuiga (alone cueca). She started dancing alone after the government took her husband away, and other women joined her in protest for their lost loved ones as a result of how shocking it was to see her dancing alone in a dance that was obviously intended for two people.

Even English singer and musician Sting wrote a song about the resistance because it was such a potent movement.

La cueca was no longer viewed in the same social and cultural context after Pinochet’s dictatorship ended. Some experts even contend that the genre was harmed by its political use. However, Chileans are gradually reclaiming the dance as their own, using it to have fun with others and share their culture, history, and traditions.

Such was its popularity that by the end of the 20th century that it was officially declared as the “national dance” on 18th September 1979.

b. Costumes used in the Cueca:

The costumes worn in this dance style are traditionally “Chilean” and varies according to gender as follows:

1. For males:

The attire worn includes a shirt, a flannel poncho, riding trousers, short jacket, huaso’s hat, white handkerchief and riding boots.

2. For females:

The attire worn includes a colourful dress which comprises an apron, and a white handkerchief.

c. The Cueca’s Steps and Movements:

The following pages contain the dance’s steps, which you can learn. These are in Spanish but contain movement diagrams:

Cueca guidelines

Taking lessons in our national dance


Those who are truly proficient at Cueca dance moves will perform while dressed in traditional Chilean garb. This is especially true every September during the celebrations of the nation’s independence day.

d. Music involved in the Cueca:

The musical instruments used in this dance style include the guitar, accordion, guitarron, and percussion. In addition, instruments such as trumpets, zamponas, sicus, bass, trumpets, and tubas may also be used.

The lyrical structure of Cueca songs consists of two stanzas and a conclusion, and the rhyme scheme is even verses. 

La Cueca’s songs cover a wide range of subjects, but they are all incredibly poetic. Typically, the lyrics are sentimental, customary, and focused on the struggles of the urban underclass.

For those who don’t recognise how a genre full of life can find inspiration in the struggles of the working class, it can be surprising, but the reality is that la cueca was born in those conditions. The songs and dances were created, then spread throughout the taverns and bars in Chile’s cities.

The music was then adopted and improved by the hardworking citizens living on the outskirts of the country’s pre-industrial cities.

La Cueca served two purposes:

As a means of amusement.

Through songs and compositions, oral traditions are transmitted.

e. Different types of Cueca Dances:

The type of la Cueca chilena you dance or list depends on where in the nation you are. There are various varieties.

The most typical and well-liked ones are:

La Cueca brava: It came from the countrymen who relocated to Chile’s cities.

La cueca portea: Valparaiso typically dances this variation.

La cueca a caballo: In this one, riders are seen dancing! something that requires talent and creativity!

La cueca sola: This variation of la cueca was created by women who were affected by the government’s abduction of their fathers, brothers, and husbands during the 20th century.

f. Training availability and technique involved in the Cueca:

In terms of the technique, this dance style is basically an imitation of the movements seen when a “chicken and a rooster” get together. Furthermore, in this dance the male performer approaches his female counterpart and offers his arm. In response, the female accepts the offer and walks along with him all around the room. Finally, the male and female face each other and begin to dance waving handkerchiefs they hold in their hands. These handkerchiefs may portray a bird’s feathers or a rooster’s comb. Cueca’s choreography (movements) consists of circles, half-circles (also known as half moons), and turns both toward and away from the partner. The man and the woman are positioned in opposite halves of an imagined circle as they dance. It begins with a promenade during which the man extends his arm and asks the woman to walk with him. This is carried out as background music for the entrance is played.  

The fact that la zamacueca and la cueca are not the same dance or musical genres must be emphasized. La zamacueca has a significant influence on la cueca. In addition, while dancing the performers also ensure that they avoid any kind of physical contact. As for training centers/schools, there are none available since this “Latin American” dance is mainly performed in South American countries such as Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

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