One of my favorite forms of expression is dance and I love learning about new dances. While I have never danced the one I am about to introduce to you, I have worn the costume.
Panamá is home to many dances that can also be found in any of the Latin countries, but El Tamborito is the national dance of Panamá. A folkloric dance, the dancers are the montuno (man) and the empollerada (woman) and they dance as couples in groups of six or more. A female singer leads the dancers with harmonic poems called coplas to the beat of la caja, las pujas and el repicador; all drums native to Panamá made from hollowed out trees and tanned cowhide.
El Tamborito is performed in front of large, interactive crowds at Panamanian festivals and especially Panamá Carnival. The dance symbolizes a romantic courtship. Historically, it is said that the dance originates from a combination of the dances of the slaves and the Mestizos, who resulted from the union of (whether voluntary or not) the conquistadores and the native Indians and slaves.
An important part of the dance is the costumes. The women wear elegant and intricately designed costumes called la pollera, made of white cloth with motifs of birds, flowers, fruit or native designs and interwoven lace and ribbons. The men wear el montuno, consisting of a formal camisellas, a white slightly loose fitting long sleeved cotton shirt with a upward turned collar and navy, black or beige trousers.
As you can see the headdress is elaborate and, I can assure you, quite heavy. So the next time you’re in Panamá, I hope you are able to experience El Tamborito.
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