Tuesday, Labour Day, was a major public holiday here in Chile (along with many other countries around the world). The city of Antofagasta was taking advantage of most people being off work by offering a few activities, including a book fair and some special dance performances, in the center of the city. Always up for celebrating a holiday, I went with a group of friends to the center of the city where we had heard there would be a performance by dancers from the Carnaval de Ouro, a religious celebration in Oruro, Bolivia. The specific dance that they performed was the Diablada (the devil), which is proclaimed by UNESCO to be one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
And what a colourful, bright, sparkling heritage it is: words and photos cannot do justice to the dance. Groups of dancers, all wearing spectacularly intricate costumes circled a central square. The story in the dance unfolded through each group of dancers and the costumed figures. There were several figures, or characters, involved in the dance, including a condor, an angel, and of course, devils.
The dance’s origins are disputed, though are likely to have been in Bolivia. Many aspects of the dance are said to be traditional to the Andean altiplano region.
The dancers were accompanied by a live band and the steps and movements were beautifully coordinated with the music. Groups of dancers stayed in line with each other, while figures such as the angels and demons swirled in and out between the formations of dancers in incredibly ornate costumes.