‘Marinera’ Dance Contest in Newark Sends Winners to Peru

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

New Jersey’s Peruvian marinera dance contest took place on Sunday [April 30] at The Waterfront in Newark amid white handkerchiefs and flirty dance couples displaying their footwork. The winners will move on to participate in the 58th Peruvian Marinera Contest to take place Jan. 22 to 28 of next year in Trujillo, Peru.

Organized by an affiliate of Club Libertad, the group which coordinates the event in Peru, eight couples were chosen to participate in the final round of the contest, which celebrates the popular Peruvian traditional dance.

“There are two types of marineras: limeña, from Lima, and norteña, from the north,” said the New Jersey affiliate’s representative Luis Araujo, who lives in Harrison. “We only deal with the norteña and its variations, as it is the most common and best known in Peru.”

Seventy-six participants from New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland, Florida, Washington and Texas displayed their grace and talent all day Sunday for the audience and judges.

Marinera is a sensual dance in which the woman flirts with the man, who, in turn, dances around her with elegance and poise as he shows off his footwork. While the dancers never touch as they do in tango or waltz, their intimacy is evident.

The winners of the New Jersey selection were judged on their composure, personality, poise and coordination all the way through the climactic part of the dance, the footwork, which must be elegant and rhythmic to enliven the party.

For marinera specialist Luis Barboza – from Dallas, Texas, who won first place in the Masters category – dancing is a way for him to build a bond with his homeland.

“I learned to dance in Dallas three years ago, and thanks to it I feel more connected to my roots,” he said.

Araujo explained that, beginning this year, Peruvians living in their native country will not be allowed to participate in contests taking place abroad. The only exception will be made for nationals who can demonstrate that they have been in the U.S. for at least six months. The competitions are held in 17 U.S. states and as far as Europe and Asia.

In New Jersey, the following people will move on to the next contest: Diara Blanco and Nicholas Chicas (Pre-Infants), Ryan Cascire and Valeria Llamosa (Infants), Fernando Romero and Grace Rivera (Children), Anthony Bernal and Camila Martínez-Morales (Juniors), Sebastián Benavides and Jenny Tran (Teens), Luis Idrogo and María Alvarado (Adults), Máximo Rivera and Catherine Adrianzen (Seniors), Luis Barboza and Janet (Masters), Jessy Cruz (Single Adults) and Valeska Vergara (Single Children).

Some marinera champions have come from the United States. One of them was Yenny Avellaneda, from Houston, who won the crown in the Masters category in 2014.

The late César Zapata, who served as president of the New Jersey Club Libertad affiliate, was a renowned three-time champion, remembered Araujo.

Along with Peruvian gastronomy, marinera is the most important element of the country’s culture abroad, and the people who practice it pass it on to their children, and perfect it and learn it at hundreds of dance schools across the U.S.

As with pisco, the alcoholic beverage, both Peruvians and Chileans claim marinera as their own. In Chile, the dance is known as cueca and would have derived from the zamacueca – a style danced by people of African descent and gypsies settled in Lima – and brought into Peru by José Bernardo Alcedo, the composer of Peru’s national anthem. At some point in history, Peruvians called the dance style La Chilena – “The Chilean One” – until writer and composer Abelardo Gamarra named it marinera in 1879. They both say the dance is of Spanish origin.

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