Marinera Norteña

Marinera Norteña

There’s a lively debate about the origins of the Marinera, and several contrasting schools of thought. It’s not surprising that everyone in Peru wants to claim a slice of the country’s most popular dance. It’s a dramatic and romantic paired dance, with the couple making sweeping gestures, showing off the white traditional costumes of Peru’s north coast. Watch this clip from the documentary Soy Andina, which travels through Peru, explaining the country’s diverse regional cultures through the story of two dancers.

The Marinera shares its origins with the Tondero, a dance from Piura in northern Peru, developed by the horsemen of the region, who came from a gitano or ¨gypsy¨ background. It was then adopted and adapted by African slaves who worked in the sugar plantations of the region.

In the north of the country the dance was simplified, in Lima it became more complex and stylized over time. The Northern style has held sway over the rest of the country.

The Mecca for the national dance is Trujillo, where the National Festival of the Marinera is held every January, and lasts for the better part of a month.

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Authored by: Rick Hind

Rick Hind is an Australian journalist who took the plunge two years ago with his partner Anna to explore a new continent and learn Spanish along the way. In the last two years he’s trekked in the Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash, explored the Amazon in an open canoe, hiked through Patagonia, tangoed in Buenos Aires and learned to surf in Lima. Peruvian cuisine has captured his heart, and he’s still trying to master ceviche, rocoto relleno and make the perfect pisco sour.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Ardan at 9:20 am

    (A short story)

    And the winner this year is…

    Karla Koepke!

    The crowd cheered and acclaimed as the white handkerchiefs undulated… but there were also some uneasiness mumbles. Yes, the dancer was beautiful. She had a precious dress, her technique was superb…and so her name. But she lacked something…she lacked passion.

    Madeleine Garcia sobbed bitterly. This was the second year her dream to reach the glory, the first place, was shattered. She loved marinera, it was her passion, her all-life love. That was the reason she didn’t wear an expensive or fancy dress, but a plain black anaco and a white blouse…she didn’t want the dress to alter the steps, the movements, she was in the search for something more natural, according to the country roots of the dance. But it seemed useless. Her plain beauty was beaten by the beauty of her dance, wich distilled passion everywhere, dedication and love… but that was not enough to the eyes of the judges. Anyways, it was over for now…

    – Madeleine, Madeleine!

    A curious journalist, with a microphone on her hand, talked to her in a hurry.

    – You made a mistake, the Queen is over there

    – No, no, I want to talk to you, to have an interview

    Clearly a young, inexperienced journalist. Just about her age. Recently graduated for sure.

    Madeleine dried her eyes, tried a smile and said

    – OK then

    – Thank you!

    – Madeleine, how it feels like to become second place again?

    Silly question…anyways, it was not her fault, it was the logical question.

    – Rage. Helplessness. Pain. It’s hard, you know.

    – Yes, I can imagine it. Did you train a lot?

    – A great deal! You can’t imagine it. Everyday, more than three hours a day, during the last six months.

    – Madeleine, people doesn’t know how difficult it is to dance Northern Marinera, how hard it is…I myself have danced a bit, and it’s hard.

    – Yes it is, but when you love something, nothing is difficult.

    – The journalist smiled, and so Madeleine. They have made a connection, there was empathy between the two girls. They talked about the same. She might be inexperienced, but it was clear that she really liked marinera.

    – When you dance, one can notice your passion, your love for the dance.

    – Thank you!

    – Tell us Madeleine, for the public, isn’t it too difficult to dance without shoes?

    Madeleine looked at her naked feet and felt how they throbbed… she hadn’t paid attention to them for so long, she didn’t care at all about the pain, the constant practice… all what she cared about was to dance.

    – You know? Dancing barefoot it’s not difficult to me anymore, on the contrary, it’s easier to move that way than with shoes on. At the very beginning, when you start, you hurt your feet, you can’t bend them. Feet hurt a lot until, little by little, they don’t hurt that much. Feet are very abused, toenails lose their natural bright. The soles of your feet get inured and full of callouses, they become a single callous, hardened, rough.

    – That much? interrupted the journalist, curious

    – Take a look

    Madeleine got on her knees on the floor, letting the soles of her feet to be clearly seen. Close up, close up! said a voice, as the cameraman made an excellent close up of the girl’s feet. Her soles were black, with the only exception of her insteps. Her feet were long and slender, elegant, nicely shaped. Her toes, fairly long too. Her arches were high and they were the only spot where the skin remained clean.

    Another close up. Even though the dirt, the soles looked hard, rough, as if they were made of leather.

    – Can I?

    – Sure, but they are dirty – said Madeleine

    Carefully, as if she were touching a relic, something sacred, the journalist dusted Madeleine’s soles with her hand. She took her hand off, scared as she felt the hard and leathery rough skin, but then she touched them again as she looked at the camera.

    – We have this unique opportunity to see the feet of a real dancer, a true champion of our Marinera. The feet of the girls are systematically forgotten in these contests, but they are those who take all the burden and responsibility of our dance, that we can see shine in this contests. Madeleine has been kind allowing us to see her feet. I am touching her soles and they feel hard and rough, somewhat thick, they look as if they were inured.

    The girl expressed her gratitude with sincerity and stood up, as the camera took the last close-up of Madeleine’s beautiful feet. She stood up thinking the interview was over.

    – So, how do you rehearse, Madeleine? How did you get to make your feet that strong?

    No, it wasn’t over, the interview went on. Well, they were talking about Marinera and that was what she liked.

    – I train everyday. There’s an empty place in my house, a room whose floor isn’t finished yet. It’s made of really coarse cement and there’s were I practice all the time.

    – Do you dance on rough cement? But that’s just like sandpaper!!!

    Madeleine smiled

    – Yes, something like that, and I also practice on the streets near my house, and on dirt ground too, wherever I can. You know? It’s for when you go to a place where you’ve never danced before, it doesn’t hurt too much.

    – And heat, doesn’t it bother you?

    – I’ve had to dance many times on school yards, and in the summer they get REALLY hot…well, I dance a bit faster then. You never end getting used to heat, but at least I try to by walking barefoot on my house’s roof, at noon, when it’s very hot.

    – Doesn’t it burn?

    – There’s no use in lying to you. Yes, it does burn.

    – Doesn’t it hurt to dance barefoot? It’s hard to me…

    Madeleine smiled. Suddenly, she said.

    – I am not the kind of girl who complains all the time. You rehearse, and it hurts, but pain goes out. When you dance you don’t feel pain anymore, you feel happiness. Dancing marinera is not just the joy of dancing but flirting with your partner, and then he flirts back and that’s something spontaneous, not forced, it’s nice and it makes you keep dancing, flirting with your bare feet.

    For a dancer, the pain in the feet doesn’t matter, what matters is that you dance well, to enjoy the dance, give all of yourself. You know? On the feet of a professional dancer there’s no skin anymore, the sole is pure leather, it’s only callous, as you’ve noticed already.

    – Isn’t it hard?

    – Long ago I used to feel sorry to see my feet like that, but not anymore. Having your soles calloused, thickened, inured, it’s the reflection of a well done work, of lots of work as you cannot imagine. I like the soles of my feet to be full of callouses to dance wherever I want. A dancer must always be prepared.

    – You’re unbelievable Madeleine, I’ve have always admired you and I love how beautifully you dance. Will you prepare for next year?

    Madeleine stood silent. Next year. A dancer must always be prepared. She had to win next year, if God wanted it that way. Suddenly, she looked at the sky for a short while, looked down and said.

    – I won’t wear shoes anymore until I become a champion.

    The journalist was amazed, wordless. The cameraman showed Madeleine’s face as she said those words. The girl looked determined, she meant it.

    – Thank you, thank you so much. That was Madeleine Garcia, who has promised not to wear shoes anymore until she wins the contest. Good luck Madeleine!


    – My little girl, are you mad?!

    – Oh, mom!

    – But how is it that you won’t wear shoes anymore until you win the contest? You didn’t mean it, did you? Jesus! But if you have said that on TV, what will people say!

    – Mom, I meant it. I don’t know, it just came to me, I felt to, and I meant it.

    – And your classes, your work? You will lose them!

    Madeleine, Madeleine, Madeleine!

    A crowd arose in front of her house, cheering her name. The girl went out smiling as they carried her up.

    You’re our Queen! Madeleine, Madeleine, Madeleine!


    It wasn’t that hard after all. Her well weathered feet were used to dance. Walking barefoot in the street wasn’t hard to her. But the stares. Snob people. Judging, accusing glares. But they were few ones. The girl, wearing a t-shirt and jeans rolled on the bottom, walked barefoot in the street, with her backpack on her shoulder.

    When she got into her 4th year class, the professor got close to her.

    – Miss Garcia, come with me please.

    What happened?

    Together they went to the Dean office

    – Have a seat please

    – Miss garcia, on the first place allow me to congratulate you for your performance in the marinera contest, you make us all proud of you.

    – Thank you Sir

    – And your vow, your promise to not wearing shoes anymore until you win…

    – Sir, allow me to explain…

    – Please let me continue. Your vow to not wearing shoes anymore until you win…well, it’s something radical, let me say…but it’s something brave too. I want you to know that you have all of our support, I assure you that this university will be happy of you coming barefoot to class.

    Madeleine’s face lit up with a smile, as she shed a tear.

    – Thank you Sir!

    In her part-time job as a cashier in a supermarket her co-workers received her with bravos. She looked so cute in her uniform and in bare feet. The manager offered his support in a nice reunion that ended with general applause. They were proud of “their” Madeleine. The ladies who were in the queue to pay sometimes asked her

    – Aren’t your feet cold?

    – Sometimes, but you get used to it.

    – You will win the next contes!

    – Thank you madam!


    And time passed by, in the middle of rehearsals, classes and exams, work and more work.

    Madeleine went to bed exhausted every night. At class her friends made fun of her bare feet from time to time, but she just laughed at it and joked back too. During the summer she had to walk quickly in the street at noon, the pavement burnt like a hot iron and she had no option but going to a shady place or walking quickly in order not to have her soles burnt too hard. It was nice getting to the supermarket and feeling the fresh, polished floor that relieved her worn out feet.

    Living barefoot, constant training and dancing had inured the soles of her feet even more, they were real living leather by now. Her dance partner massaged her tired feet at the end of every rehearsal, sometimes she felt aslept as he massaged her feet.

    The time for the contest came back. Passion. Courage. Love. Dance. Marinera! She was winning the fist stages and got to the finals again. She completely gave herself, soul and flesh, to the last step, the public acclaimed her and cheered her name.

    – And the winner this year is…

    Another fancy, elegant name was heard, another shining face, another luxurious dress. Madeleine was second place again. The crowd remained wordless, the decision of the judges couldn’t be discussed.

    Madeleine watched the sky and mumbled.

    – If you want it this way.

    Then she thought…another barefoot year… and she smiled. She would rehearse again. She would try it again. Next year would be HER year. She knew it. And, after all… it wasn’t that bad living without shoes. She really liked it.

    The End

  2. Ardan at 9:26 am

    Northern Marinera
    (Short story)

    She made the sign of the cross and started dressing up. The dress was simple yet beautiful, delicate, elegant. Nothing exaggerated, without those ruffles and excess cloth that left aside the traditional thing to became luxury, and that made dancing more difficult.

    She looked at the mirror and smiled, as she made her hair, put the earrings on and got some make up. She was young and beautiful.

    She looked at her bare feet. She liked walking barefoot at home and from time to time even in the streets of her neighborhood. She went without shoes to buy something to the corner’s store, her neighborhood and friends were used to see her that way. She felt more comfortable and happier by leaving her feet free. She even dared some time to go and get back from the beach barefoot, leaving her sandals at home. The ground was hot, really hot, but she could endure it. She liked feeling it like that. It was a shame that in Lima people liked gossip that much. It was more because of shame than other thing that she didn’t walk barefoot in the street more often. If it were for her, she would live barefoot…

    She checked the soles of her feet out. They were hard, supple, thick and inured. Years of practice had turned them into living leather. She liked them like that, strong and tough. It was the best, they allowed her to dance anywhere. Her feet continued being beautiful. They were long and slender, delicate, with graceful toes and high arches. The dust that adhered to her soles, getting them darker, did not but highlight their curves, their shape, their beauty. More of one of her dance partners had admired the beauty of her feet and had told her so. She, coquettish, answered with a “thank you” and a smile. Some had even dared to ask her to let them check her feet. She always agreed on that, and laughed when they were amazed about how hard the soles of her feet were. Real dancer feet. At the beach, her friends bothered her by telling her feet had shoe soles. Envy! She could go and back at the beach and the boardwalk barefoot while they had to put their sandals on, since they couldn’t endure the hot sand and ground, ha ha ha!

    It was time to leave. It would be outdoors, there was no stage, the dance would be performed on the pavement. There were lots of people. It was noon, in the middle of the Summer. She knew what was waiting for her. It didn’t matter, it was worth the pain and she would enjoy it. She went out. Her dark hair shined under the sun. Her face was a full smile. The place for the dance was about 50 metres far from the place she had had her clothes changed. The pavement was extremely hot and it burnt, as it had been absorbing heat all day long. It was coarse, rough and hot. She immediately felt the heat roasting her soles. It hurt. She didn’t care, she would continue smiling, walking gracefully, slowly, to the very center, where her partner was already waiting for her. People applauded. They had no idea of how hard it was to walk barefoot on the rough and hot pavement. The music began and her heartbeat become faster. It was her passion, her love, her desire. The dance took control of them.

    The flirtation began. The handkerchief made filigrees in the air. Her feet moved slender and gracefully. She strongly rubbed her soles on the coarse, rough hot cement that tormented her feet. She kept smiling, not caring about the pain, it passed into another plane. The music went on and the couple continued swirling and moving, advancing and retiring. People went on applauding, admiring the beauty of the dance, the mastery of the dancers and the young woman’s beauty. Her feet moved with grace and wit, her soles were black with the dust of the street. Only her arches remained white and clean. It was really a beautiful vision.

    The music stopped. The public roared and applauded. The dancers retired walking slowly towards the improvised dressing rooms. Her feet hurt terribly, as any time she had to dance on places like this. But she didn’t care, she was happy, she enjoyed it and she would do it again, over and over. Marinera Norteña was her passion, her love.

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