Journey through Colombia: folk dances of the Huila department

Typical Colombian dances by region: from cumbia to joropo

tipichnye kolumbijskie tancy po regionam ot kumbii dozhoropo

Colombia is a country with a huge folklore that covers different styles. Here you will find characteristics of the territory’s main dances, divided by region. We also indicate in which departments the most popular are practiced.

Below you have an index with all the items we are going to cover in this article.

Caribbean Coast.

This is the northern region of the country and the origin of several of the most important dances in the country. Some of its most important cities are Barranquilla, Cartagena and Santa Marta.


Cumbia can be considered a black dance because it comes from Equatorial Guinea. It has its roots in African culture. The instruments with which it is accompanied are drums, bagpipes, and flutes.

The musicians are placed in the center, on the stage. It is a dance in pairs , The woman places her left hand on her waist, grasping the end of her skirt, and in her right hand she holds a lit candle.

While the men perform more acrobatic and expressive movements, the women move in short strides and in an upright position. Her closet consists of a motley skirt , a blouse, a bouquet of flowers on her head, and colored necklaces.

The man is dressed in white. The pants have a gathered back called a cabbage , He has a shirt around his neck and he wears an embellished chest. They tie a red scarf around their neck and wear a hat on their head.

Some of the most prominent kumbias Colorful Skirt , Tropitating , Canoe , Fascinated and Earth Columbia Dear , The latter is interpreted in the following video:

In addition, there is another one named Gaita that comes from this dance. In addition, there are some, such as Puya, a nineteenth-century dance that has acquired elements of cumbia.


It is represented by the descendants of the Maroons, former slave rebels who lived at large in Palenque de San Basilio, in Mahat, Bolivar.

The Bullerengue is danced only by women , who sing at the same time. Its origin is African, where it was part of the acts of initiation performed by young men.

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Traditionally it was passed down orally from generation to generation. It has a marked rhythm played by two drums: the ringing and the cheerful or female.

The women move upright and take small steps that may resemble those of the cumbia. It is festive and fun music.

I mapped it out.

This dance of African influences was common around the Magdalena River. Mapalé, the name of the dance, also means fish caught in that part.

It was introduced at night to celebrate fishing. However, over time it has been changed to reach the present, in which it has a strong sexual character ,

It happens as a couple. The men perform exhibition poses and the women move erotically. The steps are short, the rhythm is moving and clapping hands.

The costumes are fresh and bright, as this is a warm area. On the one hand, women wear short skirts that accentuate their movements. On the other hand, the men usually go shirtless.

Vallenate .

This folk dance is accompanied by two percussion instruments (box and guacharaca) and an accordion. You can add others, such as guitar or bagpipes.

It is presented in the form of a pair. Depending on the wallenato, it is practiced more stuck or divided. There are no strict rules here: the movements depend on the dancers. We find five different rhythms or musical parts:

This dance is so important that it has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is common throughout Colombia and even in other countries such as Mexico, Ecuador and Argentina.

It is typical of the departments of Cordoba, Bolivar, Atlántico and Sucre. It is also very popular in the city of Medellín in Antioquia, where important festivals are held.

It is a native dance , Little by little African rhythms were added, and then the brass instruments of military bands. This one has a four by four beat.

It was basically an individual approach, although it is now considered a ballroom dance as a couple. There is no set choreography, but circular movements are performed. One of the most famous songs is Window ,

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This natural region is also known as the Eastern Plains. It is a large plain where important rivers such as the Meta or Vichada meet and flow into the Orinoco, which serves as the border.


This ilanera dance is also popular in Venezuela. It has important influences from the Spanish fandango , Its name comes from the Arabic word xarop , which means syrup ,

Beginning to develop in the eighteenth century. It is danced as a couple. The body remains stationary, but the legs perform a quick heel. The man holds the woman’s hands and does the movements, and the woman imitates him.

The instruments with which the music is performed are the harp, the foursome (similar to the guitar) and the maracas. There are different types that have developed in each area, such as eastern joropo, tuyero or Andean.


This is practiced in popular festivals. It is a dance that is happy and full of excitement. It is believed that its name comes from the Galerón festivals, which were celebrated in the seventeenth century.

Galerón is held in couples who practice zapateado. The man pursues the woman. He also wears a handkerchief, which moves and with which he spins around him.

In the following YouTube video, we see a performance by two pairs of young dancers:

Pacific Coast.

The Pacific Coast consists of four departments: Choco, Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño. This region, located to the west, is the most populated by descendants of Afro-Colombians.


This is a Choco folk dance. It is an erotic ritual between a couple that performs provocative gestures, leg plays, and hints of movement. Has African origins , Its name comes from the word muzzle rope to tie boats.

To represent this, two rows are formed, one of men and one of women. The dancers do not grasp, and sometimes the man surrounds the woman, who wears a wide skirt and short-sleeved blouse.

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Hota Chocana and Caderon.

These two are mestizo dances, as they blend African culture and 18th- and 19th-century European dances.

The Hota Chocana is a satirical imitation of the Spanish nest. It began to be interpreted in the 18th century. It is danced in pairs, standing opposite each other. This has some differences with the Spanish version. In Colombia, the movements are faster and sharper. Both palms, however.

In the case of the caderona, a voice accompanied by a chorus sings the following lyric during the performance: “Caderona, come , meniate , With hand on hip. Caderona, come , meniate , Ow! Come , meniate , fall in love , “

Currulao and Bund

The Currulao is the dance of the more important Afro-Colombians of this department. Its history begins with the slaves who worked in the mine during the colonial era.

It is presented in pairs, which moves in a circular and linear pattern, drawing a figure of eight. It is a kind of courtship in which the man tries to make the woman fall in love. It is performed with the following percussion:

The boondah uses the same instruments, but this one is religious in nature. It was traditionally practiced at children’s funerals. Nowadays it is only sung if it is a celebration. If not, its instrumental form is retained.


It comes from a European dance of the 16th and 17th centuries that was called contrydance which means field dance , It was in the 18th century when the Spanish transferred it to Colombia.

Contradanza was practiced at celebrations of the highest class , Elegance dominated it. It lasted about an hour and there was no rest in its interpretation.

This performance was given to the popular classes of the country through slavery. It is conducted in pairs and has predetermined rules. Among the instruments that accompany it we find the clarinet and the euphonium. Other dances of European origin are chotis or rumba.

Andean region.

It gets its name from the Cordillera de los Andes, which is located in this area. Here we find different cultural groups such as paisa, santandereano and cundobiyacense.

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It is the most important dance in this area and one of the most popular in the whole country. You have doubts about its history, so there are different hypotheses that speak of African, indigenous or Spanish origins.

It is another performance as a couple in which a man asks a woman to dance, with whom he crosses over, forming a figure of eight. They move with their hands around her waist and play with an important element: the handkerchief.

In this genre we find La Guaneña , a song from 1789. Its author is the musician Nicanor Diaz, who wrote it in honor of Rosario Torres, He fell in love lost. In the following video you can listen to the original song:

Although not official, it is considered a popular Nariño anthem. Both songs and dances are taught to pre-school and elementary school children. The clothes with which this is practiced are warm fabrics and bright colors.

An important variety of bamboo is the Sanjuanero. The music of this style was composed in 1936 by Duran Plazas. It is a very expressive dance in which eight different figures are made.


The whirlwind comes from farmers who express different feelings with it: love, religiosity, frustration, etc. It is practiced at parties, weddings and pilgrimages.

It is done by two people walking around. The man chases the woman and she runs away. Then the roles are reversed. It is an easy and spontaneous dance. So children can also practice it.


Guabina is a nineteenth century dance, coming from Europe, although it has undergone some regional adaptations over time , In the past it was persecuted by the Christian church.

Depending on the departments in which it is practiced, we find three types:

  • Cundiboyacense : in Boyaca and Cundinamarca
  • Veleña : in Velez (Santander)
  • Tolimese : in Huila and Tolimna

Although the sauce originated in Cuba in the twentieth century, in Colombia it has great fame and popularity , All over the country you can find schools to learn how to practice it.

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Colombian salsa has its own characteristics, as it is influenced by African and Cumbian movements. Some of the most famous authors are Joe Arroyo, Cristian del Real, and Los Titanes.


This region is located in the south of Colombia. It is part of the Amazon rainforest, the largest forested area in the world. It is inhabited by a total of 44 indigenous peoples.


This is a dance that is presented in a meeting between communities of natives from the Alto Putumayo region. In this ceremony, people redistribute food.

The parade is led by a man known as the chief matachin , who wears a red mask and bell. This ceremony is part of a party called the Carnival of Forgiveness.

In this video we see different parts of this important indigenous celebration:

Offering Dance.

This is a performance in honor of people who have already passed away. In it, they are offered some of the products They are consumed in life. Therefore, each dancer carries a wooden plate.

The participants are placed in a circular shape. In the center is a person, around whom the rest rests. The music is played with a flute and a drum.


It is considered a national dance because it is not represented in one region, but in the entire country. It began to develop in the 19th century due to the influence of the European waltz.

It is also quite popular in Ecuador. Because of its origin, it is considered a mulatto dance. It was born as a sign of joy after Spanish independence, so it reflects freedom.

There are two different types, interpreted depending on the occasion:

  • Partying : It is instrumental. It is presented at parties and weddings.
  • Slow : It can be vocal or instrumental. It is interpreted in serenades.

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