Dancing in the Streets of Cusco, Peru

On my way back to my Cusco hostel from Machu Picchu, I walked and walked toward Plaza del Armas. I could have checked the map more carefully, or even hopped in a taxi – I was carrying a heavy backpack and lots of new gifts from the artisanal market in Chinchero. But I decided to just move in the general direction of the Plaza, and see what I found on the way.

After passing by local cheeses, outdoor butchers loading their trucks with full-on cow carcasses, Sunday afternoon religious gatherings, and more… I heard some music.

I saw the dancers. I stopped everything because at that point, clearly, nothing else mattered. It was time to dance.

I had never met this dancer, Tupak Latino, before. He was dancing and performing in the street with his bboy friend Walter de la Vega (aka Bboy Wally), a dancer named Ñofii (aka Jonathan), and their friend Wendy. I dropped my stuff and immediately began to dance with them. I asked someone to hold my phone, and we got the following clips. Here is us performing a completely impromptu show to “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars.


Annnnnd we freestyled to other songs, as the night went on. Tupak knew to play this music to captivate the American girl, obviously.

We even danced West Coast Swing! Tupak is a natural :-).

This was one of the most MAGICAL moments of my entire trip. The trip to Cusco actually began about a year ago with a special travel voucher I won on JetBlue airlines, so it is like this meeting was in motion long before it happened. And I wasn’t “supposed to” get back to Cusco at that time on that Sunday. I had different plans in mind – but an electricity outage in Ollantaytambo shifted the timing of my entire commute and had me arrive at just the right time, before sunset. And I wasn’t “supposed to” walk that route – I just did. It was a “coincidence.” And lo and behold, these dancers from Lima were in my completely unplanned path – it’s like it was meant to happen.

I simply love finding “my” music, my culture, hip hop, r&b, soul, popping, locking… etc. – in other places. American music is beloved worldwide; it’s one of our greatest cultural exports.

Tupak, Walter, Wendy and I laughed about my Spanish. Specifically, I was saying “pelo” which means “fur,” to talk about my hair, versus “cabello,” which refers to the hair on your head. There was also a funny moment where I asked Tupak about being famous in Peru – “famoso” – but he heard “hermoso” and we all cracked up! They taught me new words and we sat in the street talking, listening to music, and freestyling together, until the sun had gone down.

And now I made friends for life – because the language of dance is universal. <3

Written By

Exenia is a professional singer, dancer, and travel blogger based in NYC. Her original EP, "5 Sides," can be found on iTunes or at Bandcamp. She has previously written for Brit + Co, and currently contributes dance-related content for West Coast Swing dancers at WanderingWestie.com. She lives an #EccentricLife of her own creative design, and seeks to inspire others to do the same. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube @exeniamusic!

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