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ALL THE WRONG PLACES: The Scissor Dancers of Peru

Battling altitude sickness, crippling viruses and stomach hemorrhages, we were on a Mission to find the infamous, centuries-old Peruvian scissor dancers: local men who stab rods into their tongues, hammer nails into their noses and dart cacti into their flesh. And did we mention they also live high in the Peruvian Andes? Like really, really high. Who knew the MINI Coupé was going to have to make it 5500 meters above sea level.

ALL THE WRONG PLACES: The Scissor Dancers of Peru

Scissor dancing is dangerously crazy. Two dance troupes battle it out in energetic challenges that can go for up to 40 hours in high-altitude, in order to bring fertility to the land. Their steps are intricate and athletic and their costumes are Matador-meets-Las Vegas-Showgirl-turned-textile-artist. But don’t let their gaudy garb fool you, these dancers are hardened mountain men who twirl and flip about while piercing their own body parts. 

This bizarre tradition has pre-Columbian origins. Then with the Spanish conquistadors came the Catholic missionaries, who upon seeing the feats of the scissor dancers immediately assumed they’d made pacts with the Devil and tried to stamp out their practice. Despite this persecution, the scissor dancing rituals persisted in secret, passed down through generations to the present day.

Krishna, Anthony and the Coupé
Krishna, Anthony and the Coupé

One morning they took us to the most fertile part of the village, to dig up worms for ceremonial eating. During the worm picking, they talked of their commitment to preserving their age-old tradition -– no matter how bloody and painful it got. They were not kidding.

Scissor Dancing

Meanwhile, speaking of bloody… our Co-Pilot Anthony went down for the count with a serious altitude-induced stomach hemorrhage. The locals performed secret ancient healing rituals on him, including smoking herbs over his fever and mashed what looked like cilantro into his torso to temper his delirium. Then they smoked cigarettes into his face to ward off bad spirits. He got better. Check out this and other bonus content on MINI Facebook.

Scissor Dancing

Respect to these traditional Scissor Dancing bros. They might not be devil-worshippers, but they are definitely insane. Scissor dancing expanded our understanding of what cultural preservation means to some folks. ALL THE WRONG PLACES: DANCES WITH SCISSORS PERU made a week of stomach hemorrhages, oxygen tanks and altitude all worth it.

Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (14 images)

If you’ve got a strong stomach for real adventure, check out the full episode. We'll take you on a truly unwise journey in ALL THE WRONG PLACES: DANCES WITH SCISSORS PERU.

Related Links:

ALL THE WRONG PLACES on Facebook
The Scissor Dancers of Peru - Teaser

Watch the Full ALL THE WRONG PLACES Series on YouTube.
MINI on Facebook
MINI on YouTube
VICE.com

Episode 1: Dekotora — The Bizarre Transformer Trucks of Japan
Episode 2: The Taxi Hit Squads of South Africa
Episode 3: The Scissor Dancers of Peru
Episode 4: Swedish Micronations Roadtrip
Episode 5: Jamaica — Obeah Magic Man

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