The Most Complete Guide of Ecuador

Temporary Exhibition: The Jama Coaque Dancers

Text: The Pre-Columbian Art Museum Casa del Alabado. 

Among the pieces featuring pre-Columbian characters, the dancers are the most visually stunning.  They carry an extensive variety of objects over their bodies; they are ornamented with baroque abundance.  

The body of the dancer is able to materialize and administer the sound, to produce it, to promote it and to carry it. The dance, produced by a highly ornamented body, can produce rhythmic sounds, beats on the floor and a sounding and constant pulse. In cases such as that of the Yumbos and some other dancers from the central highlands of Ecuador, the dancers alternate long and light pulses in a sway known as zapateo, which represents a visible alteration of collective walking and takes advantage of its sound.  

The dancers can be immersed in ceremonial practices. In the case of pre-Columbian representations, the figures of dancers can articulate these characters with music and the consumption of certain substances. The alteration of body and consciousness opens the way to the interpretation of sound and movement. In the Jama-Coaque (500 BC-1530 AD) pieces that display dancers, we can see several easily recognizable stylistic tendencies among them: the abundant ornamentation that lands in the iconographic representation of skirts, played with bird shapes, crowns, bracelets in hands, legs and hips, the placement of musical instruments in their hands as a suggestion of their musical roles, and the connection of these with the consumption of certain substances by placing them on top of tablets.  

Our piece of the month for January is a Jama-Coaque dancer (500 BC-1530 AD). The piece features a generous headdress that rests on the head, a majestic banner that covers the entire back and a tablet upon which rests the entire figure. These tablets were used to inhale powder of yopo or wilca, a legume that can be obtained from a tree. This substance was very popular in South and Central America pre-Columbian for its hallucinogenic properties, since it contains bufotenin. The constant relationship between dancers, movement and substances attracts the attention of archaeologists since they suppose the consumption of ritual substances in festive moments, this connection also suggest the existence of a state of vision in which the dance was executed. The dancers, therefore, are figures of great visual and corporal stimulation. 

The moments of celebration imply a breaking point with everyday life not only at a symbolic level but also bodily, they value a creative exploration of our body and consciousness. In a similar fashion to contemporary rituals, dance is represented as a moment of climax and performativity. 

We invite you to visit our permanent exhibition and the pieces of dancers that are part of it.  

Inauguration Date: Saturday, January 25, 2020, 11h00 AM.

** The entrance to the Museum will be free on the opening day from 11h00 AM to 15h00 PM. 

Place: Museo de Arte Precolombino Casa del Alabado.

Address: Cuenca N1-41 and Bolívar, Quito – Ecuador.  

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