Dance Genre Buzz – Bolivian Tinku Dance

Festive Tinku

Dance Genre Buzz – Tinku Dance

Tinku Dance, an Andean tradition, began as a form of ritualistic combat.  It is native to the northern region of Potosí in Bolivia.  In the language of Quechua, the word “tinku” means encounter.  In the language of Aymara “tinku” means physical attack.

The Tinku is always present in the major festivals and parades of Bolivia. During this ritual, men and women from different communities will meet and begin the festivities by dancing, drinking, and fighting an to honor the Pachamama and to ask for a bountiful harvest.

Tinku Dance - Incallajta New York

Large tinkus are held in Potosí during the first few weeks of May.  In some towns like Macha, the residents celebrate the Festival of the Cross, where the Andean culture takes advantage of this festivity to also maintain the ritual of the Tinku.  The ritual in this region is practiced on a date near the 3rd of May since it coincides with the end of the harvest season. The members of the larger communities (Jatun Ayllus) and the members of the smaller communities (Juchuy Ayllus) congregate annually in the nearest larger town (Jatun Marka) to dance, drink, and fight in the main plaza. In Toro Toro, Potosí, the Tinku tradition remains vigilant. It is celebrated conjointly with the Festival of San Santiago, July 25.

Festive Tinku

The Tinku dance is a representation of an Andean tradition where a battle between two groups is simulated. This Festive Tinku is a dance that carries a warlike rhythm.


The dance is performed in a crouching stance, bending at the waist. Arms are thrown out and there are various kicks, while the performers move in circles following the beat of the drum. Every jump from one foot to the next is followed by a hard stomp and a thrown fist to signify the violence from the ceremonial tinku. Many times the dancers will hold basic and traditional instruments in their hands that they will use as they stomp, just to add more noise for a greater effect.

Enjoy a look at this dance style by viewing this video.

Because of the rhythmic way the men throw their fists at each other, and because they stand in a crouched stance going in circles around each other, a dance was formed. This dance, the Festive Tinku, simulates the traditional combat, bearing a warlike rhythm.  The differences between the Andean tradition and the dance are the costumes, the role of women, and the fact that the dancers do not actually fight each other. The Festive Tinku has become a cultural dance for all of Bolivia, although it originated in Potosí, like the fight itself.

The Festive Tinku, a much more pleasant experience than a Ceremonial Tinku, has many differences. It has been accepted as a cultural dance in the whole nation of Bolivia. Tinku music has a loud constant drum beat to give it a native warlike feel, while charangos, guitars, and zampoñas (panpipes) play melodies.  The dancers perform with combat like movements, following the heavy beat of the drum.

Ceremonial Tinku

In contrast, the Ceremonial Tinku occurs annually to carry out a real battle between two communities.  The fight begins with personal clashes (“thinkunacuy”) to compare strengths, and to request the fertility of the land. Other group members later join in the fight to perform the encounter of the two clans (“Tinku”).

In the early days, litigations were brought forth over the irrigation water and the use of the land. The communities designated paladins to represent their community. That way only one appointed person’s family would suffer the sorrow in a mortal loss (mourning). The winner obtained the rights demanded for his community.  Just like the modern day tradition of dropping a little chicha (liquor) before drinking from the tutuma (gourd), blood had to be shed in order to fertilize the land.

Ceremonial Tinku

The story behind this cultural dance is that long ago, the Spanish conquistadors made the people be their slaves. By looking in their costumes, you can see the despite the decorations, the clothes are very similar.  Women wear a dress, abarcas, and a hat. Men wear an undershirt, Pants, jacket, abarcas, and hard boney helmet like hats. Even though the people were slaves, they loved to dance, and would often fight, but never really hurt one another.

Couples often meet at Tinkus and marriages are known to result.  The women will form circles and begin chanting while the men proceed to fight each other; sometimes the women will join in the fighting as well.

The fighting, which at times can become very heated, can be a way to confirm or defend collective landholdings and also serves, as a chance for young men to show off in front of women from other communities.  These encounters in modern times are controlled by the authorities to avoid fatalities.

View Ceremonial Tinku battles by watching this video.


For Festive Tinku performances, women wear long embroidered long skirts and colorful tops, and wide belt (chumpi).  The female hat has colorful ribbons hanging down the front and decorative feathers on top.

For men, their monteras are usually decorated with long colorful feathers. Tinku Suits, or the outfits men wear in the parades or during Festive Tinku performances, are usually made with bold colors to symbolize power and strength, instead of the neutral colors worn in Ceremonial Tinkus that help participants blend in.  Both men and women wear the traditional abarcas (walking sandals) to cover their feet.

The male Ceremonial Tinku outfit includes a helmet designed to protect the head from lateral blows.  The helmet is adorned with painted feathers. This comes from the influence of other dances such as the Tobas.  The jacketshirt is of bright color. The pants are either black or white with decorations embroidered near the feet. Wide belts and aguayos (native weavings) are tied around the waist and stomach for greater protection from hand strikes.

This dance was brought over to the U.S.A, and now there are many teams such as Incallajta New York, Alma Boliviana, Tinkus Tiataco, Fraternidad Tinkus San Simon, FC Pasion Boliviana, Pachamama, Tinkus Jacha, Los Quechuas, Tinkus Wapurs and many more.

Please join us for Dance Parade’s event this November 28th

See Incallajta New York perform for Winter's Eve

Learn about Bolivian culture and its people.  Dance Parade is delighted to have Incallajta New York showcase Tinkus Dance at the 12th Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square in New York City!  Click HERE for event details.

Genre Buzz: Dance Parade’s Dance Education Series

Genre Buzz Source: Excerpts from Wikipedia

More about Dance Genre Buzz:

Each month, a new dance style is celebrated. View videos and learn about the heritage and history of different dance styles. Discover innovators of the dance, trends, variations, and current events for each dance genre featured. Watch artistic videodances featuring dance styles, and learn more about Dance made for the Camera.

Participate in Dance Genre Buzz:

Help Dance Parade New York and Video Dance TV support the dance community. Share information on each dance style we feature, including dance classes, events, competitions, and other productions, such as film and video productions. Teachers, participants, and enthusiasts are welcome to share their network and experience with our audience to support dance education, online and on the dance floor!

By, Dawn Paap

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