Two days of Dance – La Entrada Universitaria and the Day of the Campesino in Siripaca

Every year in La Paz there is a large dance festival put together by the local university, called the Entrada Universitaria. This festival includes dances from across Bolivia which are predominately performed by university students. The dances begin near the bus station and continue downtown along El Prado and Camacho streets, and they last the entire day.


Male Morenada Dancer
Kirsten and I took the bus to La Paz early in the morning to make it there with enough time to see most of the dances. We got dropped off near the cemetery and had to walk through the cemetery (which was really cool) to get to the teleferico station which went toward the bus station downtown. We made it to the dance around 11 AM and rented a ground level seat in order to get some good pictures of the dancers. The dances are very diverse and come from both the lowland and highland regions of Bolivia. We both much preferred this festival to the Chacaltaya festival we attended a few weeks earlier due to the greater diversity of dances and costumes. The dancers at this festival also seemed to be much more happy to be performimg compared to the other festival. My favorite dance was the Tobas, which comes from the Amazonian part of Bolivia. The dancers carry spears and bows and the costumes feature lots of colorful feathers and skulls. We stayed for a few hours before catching the bus back to Copacabana.  


Waca Waca Dance
The following day, we were invited to another dance festival in the village of Siripaca, about 30 minutes from Copacabana. This festival was put together by a number of small villages for the school kids to perform various dances for the communities. We arrived just after noon and were treated to a lunch of potatoes, oca, sweet potatoes, and chicken, before the dances began. The kids started dancing about 40 minutes later. One of the first dances involved small children dressed as birds dancing around a large paper egg, out of which an even smaller child popped out of after a few minutes, which was adorable. The dancers got progressively older as the performances went on, and because of that the quality got better. Many of the dances had live bands from their respective villages playing along with the children, though a few just used a CD for the dance track. The dances lasted for about an hour and a half, after which Kirsten and I walked down to the lake to take photos of the mountains and sit in the shade, since the sun was pounding down on us during the dances. We stayed about 2 hours after the dances ended, which was completely unnecessary, but the day was still enjoyable as the children dancing was very entertaining. Overall it was great two days of dance festivals, both urban and rural.  


Kids dressed up like birds
Lowland Bolivian dance


Chacaltaya – El Alto’s impressive dance festival 

Chacaltaya is a giant multi-day dance festival which occurs in El Alto, Bolivia, the sprawling expanse of city just outside of La Paz. Thousands of Bolivians participate in the dances, which are sponsored by a series of wealthy locals each year. The dancers practice the dances for weeks before the official day, and the bands play new songs written especially for that year’s festival.  
We arrived at the festival around 10 AM and rented some top row seats for a good view of the dances. A majority of the dances performed were Morenada, which is a Bolivian dance which imitates the African slaves in chain-gang which were brought by the Spanish during the colonial period. Each group of performers were huge, many with a couple hundred dancers and a large band which marched in between two large groups of dancers so they could all hear the music. Most of the musicians weren’t especially great, and had serious problems keeping a steady beat/tempo. There were occasionally non-Morenada dances, but they were few and far between. The crowds got progressively larger as the day went on, and the bench seating (similar to bleachers at a sporting event) got more crowded and uncomfortable as the day went on. If we weren’t there with other people I would have left soon after the bleachers filled due to the crowding, but we stayed for a few more hours.  
The festival is absolutely worth seeing if you’re in La Paz at the time, but probably not for an entire day like we were since a majority of the dances are the same. We saw very few other tourists visiting the festival, which is a shame since it’s a true Bolivian experience in a very accessible location for visitors to La Paz. I’d recommend staying for at least 1-2 hours if you want to see the gist of what’s happening, but no more than half a day is really necessary.