Contrapunto. The living footprints of Afro-Peruvian zapateo

13th November 2019
BY Juan Felipe Miranda Medina, | BY Walter Manrique Cervantes, | POSTED IN All Projects, Andes

Afro-Peruvian zapateo is a dance that developed in the Peruvian coast, specifically in the Departments of Lima and Ica. Zapateo dancers play with a variety of rhythms using different parts of the foot (heel, ball and sole) and use the palms of their hands to create percussive sounds by hitting them against the floor or their body.

Jumps, acrobatics and displays of skill are an essential part of the dance. Although zapateo as cultural heritage is fundamentally associated mostly with coastal Afro-Peruvians, it is currently being appropriated and practised by Andean communities.

Today, zapateo and Afro-Peruvian practices, in general, are becoming increasingly popular in other areas of Peru and around the world. This is due to the commitment of Afro-Peruvian artists and the employment of tools such as digital media and social networks.

Our transmedia project offers a bridge between dancers and investigators to integrate academic practice and dance into concrete outputs: the Contrapunto documentary series devoted to zapateo, the series of zapateo demonstrations Zapateando Con, the tutorial series on zapateo Repasa Tu Pasada, videos of contrapuntos or zapateo battles as well as interviews to the most representative zapateo dancers.

In addition, we strive for a careful curatorship of audiovisual material as well as a close interaction with zapateo dancers, allowing them to present their own work and understanding of their practice.


zapateo editado
Photo: Nadia Calmet (personal archive)

Diverse and ever-changing

This project explores Afro-Peruvian zapateo as intangible cultural heritage, seeking to encompass its diversity of styles, tradition and innovation, its connection with Afro-Peruvian identity as well as its representation around the world.

One of the traditional zapateo practices takes place in the department of Ica, where squads of black male and female dancers – the hatajos de negritos and hatajos de payitas – dance zapateo to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. The fervour and devotion is expressed through dancing around the main square, the entrance of the church, and inside people’s houses. In 2019, both hatajos were inscribed in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Zapateo criollo, however, is a very different form of zapateo. It finds its greatest expression in the contrapunto (a sort of “zapateo battle”), where two or more dancers improvise executing several zapateo sequences or “pasadas” of varying complexity, accompanied by a guitar.

While in the hatajo, dancers are moved by the vigorous sound of the fiddle, the contrapunto dancers are driven by its challenge and playfulness.

Yet another form of zapateo is to be found in its deployment in dance theatre, often substituting spoken language to express dramatic action, and including techniques from other practices such as tap, urban dance and flamenco.

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Zapateo is diverse and ever-changing. While young dancers are not afraid to take zapateo as a departure point for further exploration, more experienced masters are striving to keep their traditions alive. 

Audiovisual documentation

The audiovisual material that this project produces and gathers will continue to be disseminated among zapateo practitioners, as well as public and private institutions, opening an awareness about zapateo as well as the different projects in which zapateo dancers and Afro-Peruvian artists are engaged in. In July 2021, we organized the zapateo contest ‘Repasa tu Pasada’, and were able to award gifts thanks to the sponsorship of Percusión Real and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.

Percussion instruments were given as a prize to the best three zapateo videos and three master classes with teacher Rony Campos were awarded to the three most promising dancers. This project is committed to documenting and promoting the practice of zapateo, as well as having a positive impact in the quality of life of Afro-Peruvian artists. 


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We would like to thank the collaboration of:

  • Antonio Vilchez. Dancer and teacher at Academia de Danza D1, and ‘LimaZap Festival’ organiser. 
  • Jose Luis Saldamando Salas (‘Cochicho’). Dancer and percucionist of ‘Perkutao: Artistas Peruanos’ band. 
  • José Orlando Izquierdo Fune (‘Lalo Izquierdo’). Co-founder of the prestiguous group Perú Negro, director of the group ‘Kumaco-Escuela de Expresiones Afroperuanas’.
  • Eder Campos. Musician, dancer, artistic director of Perú Negro.
  • Elizabeth Santa María, professional dancer, winner of the zapateo contest Repiqueta, 2019. 
  • Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón Beltrán. Percusionist and zapateador in the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet.
  • Héctor Arévalo Robles. Researcher and dancer in the dance-theatre group Kimba-Fá.
  • Ivon Muñoz Romero. Dancer and percusionist in the dance-theatre group Kimba-Fá.
  • Luis Sandoval. Director of the dance group “Teatro del Milenio”. 
  • Mayra Varcárcel Peña. Researcher of the zapateo tradition “danza de las payitas”.
  • Pablo Ataucuri. Dancer and group director in “Ballet Folklórico del Sur del Perú” (BAFOSUR).
  • Percy Chinchilla. Dancer, percusionist and group director in “Perkutao: Artistas Peruanos”. 
  • Rony Campos. Musician and dancer, ex director of Perú Negro.
  • Caterine Pacheco Cornejo. Dancer and director of the Afroperuano Palenque Ballet.

Publications related to women’s and maternal health with Wixárika communities by the author of this exhibition


Gamlin, Jennie B. (2013)
Shame as a barrier to health seeking among indigenous Huichol migrant labourers: An interpretive approach of the “violence continuum” and “authoritative knowledge”
Social Science and Medicine 97 75-81

Gamlin, Jennie B. (2023)
Wixárika Practices of Medical Syncretism: An Ontological Proposal for Health in the Anthropocene
Medical Anthropology Theory 10 (2) 1-26

Gamlin, Jennie B. (2020)
“You see, we women, we can’t talk, we can’t have an opinion…”. The coloniality of gender and childbirth practices in Indigenous Wixárika families
Social Science and Medicine 252, 112912

Jennie Gamlin and David Osrin (2020)
Preventable infant deaths, lone births and lack of registration in Mexican indigenous communities: health care services and the afterlife of colonialism
Ethnicity and Health 25 (7)

Jennie Gamlin and Seth Holmes (2018)
Preventable perinatal deaths in indigenous Wixárika communities: an ethnographic study of pregnancy, childbirth and structural violence BMC
Pregnancy and Childbirth 18 (Article number 243) 2018

Gamlin, Jennie B. and Sarah J Hawkes (2015)
Pregnancy and birth in an Indigenous Huichol community: from structural violence to structural policy responses
Culture, health and sexuality 17 (1)