Cultural heritage Dance Peru

Dance of the wankas and wamlas on the backdeck

The Huaylarsh Moderno, performed by members of Raíces del Perú, in Calgary in August 2018. © J. Ashley Nixon


Huaylarsh Moderno

The Huaylarsh Moderno is one of Peru’s best-loved dances and it was an honour to have this performed, along with the Marinera Norteña and Huaconada de Mito, by members of Raíces del Perú on my own back deck in Calgary for my birthday in August.

Huancas and Wankas

Huaylarsh (also written as huaylash, huaylas, waylash, and waylarsh) is a style of music (huayno) and folk dance that comes from Huancayo, the capital city of the department of Junín, and the Mantaro valley in the central highlands of Peru. It was originally played with flutes and drums and danced by the Huanca (Wanca/Wanka), the Quechua people who have lived there since around 600 BC. to celebrate the land as they sowed and harvested potatoes. The Huancas were defeated in battle by the Incas in 1460 but then fought on the side of the Spaniards at times during their long drawn out conquest of the Incas that Francisco Pizarro started in 1526 and ended with the execution of Túpac Amaru, the last Inca Emperor, in Cusco, in 1572.

The dance is believed to take its name from the Quechua (Huanca dialect) word walarsh, meaning young man. The music, style, and costume of the Old Huaylarsh (Huaylarsh Antigua) were changed in the 1950s by the Huanca musician and composer, Zenobio Dagha to form what is now popularly known as Modern Huaylarsh (Huaylarsh Moderno).

Violin, guitar and brass instruments (especially saxophone) now usually support the spectacular choreography and colourful costumes. It is a splendid, high-energy performance, played out as a courtship ritual between young men (called huancas or wancas/wankas) and women (called huamlas or wamlas), noted for its intricate tapping footwork, jumping and, sometimes, acrobatic “show-off” movements by the male dancers.


Big thanks are in order to a lot of people for making this a very special day. To Carla Diaz Silva and the other members of Raíces del Perú for providing a beautiful, cultural show on my back deck. To Pio Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken, the place to go in Calgary for wonderful Peruvian food, for their delicious Arroz con Pollo and other dishes. To Village Brewery for the couple of kegs of Village Blonde that went down so well in our backyard. To my friends for their cards, gifts and for being there, especially Peter, Suzanne, Dave and Nancy who travelled over from England for the event and a fab “Seaview” reunion. And finally to my own family here, Jennifer, William, and Maricarmen for making life happen this and every day.

More photographs

Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Communications to see more images of these Peruvian dances.

2 comments on “Dance of the wankas and wamlas on the backdeck

  1. Pingback: Raíces del Peru awarded Best Cultural Entry award for second time in the Calgary Stampede Parade | NixonsCan

  2. Pingback: Writing about Images: 18 pics from ’18 | NixonsCan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: