From a Western viewpoint, the danza de las tijeras or scissors dance is basically a major manifestation of art and physical dexterity. But Andean folk or the mestizo people who live in highland communities see it as a complex ritual. The danzaq, the dancers, are shrouded in mystery. In a show of force and elasticity, these men put their dexterity to the test with a series of gymnastic leaps to the strains of harp and violin.
Priests in colonial times claimed the dancers had made a pact with the Devil, because of the surprising feats they performed. These fakir-like stunts, called atipanakuy, include sword-swallowing, sticking pins through their facial skin, eating insects, toads and snakes.
The main instrument played to accompany the dance is the pair of scissors, made up of two independent sheets of metal around 25 cm long and which together for the shape of a pair of round-edged scissors. The dance is performed at its best in Ayacucho, Apurímac, Arequipa, the Ica highlands, Huancavelica and Lima.