Dances of the Andean region of Colombia

In the Andean region, there are different kinds of folkloric dances that are indigenous and Spanish fusions.  Some are danced in pairs and others in groups.  The most representative dances of this region are: el bambuco, el torbellino, el guabina, el pasillo, and el bunde. Today, you can find some dance tours where you can learn and enjoy those dances.


The theme of the bambuco is based on love; it is the process of peasant romance expressed through movement.  The most characteristic figures are: the invitation, which represents the protocol part; the coqueteo or flirtatious stepping, which represents the dialogue that leads to identification and understanding; and the pursued woman, whom the man pursues manifesting his brute force, and the woman pursues asking for clarifications and kneeling.  It is the repentance, the apology and forgiveness, and the religious aspect that invite union and happiness.  The planimetric structure of this dance is circular and predominated by figure-eights and circles, combined with crosses, advances, and retreats.  In the stereometry, men and women take the same step predominated by the low escobillado (brush step).

When the moment in the music arrives, the man sets out to “make the woman fall in love,” but the woman stays silent, so the man uses the half or pointed step in which he puts one foot behind the other in place and dances backwards on his toes.  He taps his foot in place to call for the woman’s attention and plays with the handkerchief.  He taps again with full intensity, and she finally begins to dance in place; then the man approaches, also dancing, and plays with the handkerchief, the zapateo (shoe tapping), and the crossing; he goes, and she comes.  Next, he jumps, kneels on the ground, and with his hand held high flutters the handkerchief.  Meanwhile, she spins around the man and plays with her petticoats.  Then they step forward and backward in a coming-and-going motion, and they dance face-to-face, each making a circle.  Finally, he taps his foot, kneels down on one knee, calls her with the handkerchief, and later throws it; she approaches, and finally she distances herself once more.

This dance is one of the more well-known dances of Colombia and is often performed by cultural groups and dance tours.  The principal steps of the bambuco are: figure-eights, coqueteo (flirtatious stepping), escobillado (brush step), balseo (waltzing), codos (dancing with elbows touching), and turns.


This is one of the most representative dances and folkloric songs of Boyacá, Cundinamarca, and Santander; the tune usually accompanied Boyacense pilgrims on the way to their sanctuaries as well as wedding dances, patron saint festivities, and other festive environments of the towns and townships of the Cundiboyacense highland.  It is the tone with which countrymen express in couplets the simplicity of their reactions to love, disappointment, religious sentiment, and the varied landscape and cold air of the Cundiboyacense plateau.  The tune, in its expressions of “mesmito,” “sumercé,” “queré,” “truje,” “vide,” “gancia,” “ansia,” “paqué,” expresses the survival of the most typical old Castilian language, in the style of Hispano-colonial descent.


La guabina is a dance of the mountainous region of the country.  There are guabinas of Santander, Boyocá, Tolima, and Huila, and the theme is sad, nostalgic, romantic, and loving.  This is a loose couples’ dance; they make rows, crosses, and escobillados (brush steps).  The man coaxes the woman throughout the dance, pursuing her and flirting with her with his gaze.


This dance has European roots where waltzes were ballroom dances, and in Colombia it dates back to the time of the Colony adapting to the local context and receiving influences of other dances such as the bambuco.  Some of its steps are: toriao, paseo, valseo (waltzing), coqueteo (flirtatious stepping), turns by the woman, and lifting of the foot.


The Tolimense bunde is a mix between bambuco, torbellino, and especially the Huilense guabina.  It is a particular piece of the famous musician Alberto Castilla, baptized in song form for its meaning of “mixture and confusion of people, scramble of diverse things,” which is the second meaning of the word bunde, after firstly being a tune, song, and dance typical of the Pacific coast.


This is the typical folkloric element of Tomila Grande (Tomila and Huila), which rejoices with special ardor the celebrations of San Juan (Saint John) and San Pedro (Saint Peter).  In the musical folklore, the Sanjuanero is a rhythmic mix between the bambuco and joropo, and in its performance the Tolimense tambora (two-headed drum) intervenes, which brings the joy to the opitas (people of Huila) in their festive traditions when they sing their famous “¡Eeeeeee, San Juan!”