Dancing the seis

Dancing the seis

The seis (or “six”) is one of the traditional musical forms of Puerto Rico. As such, it was one of the dances favored by ordinary people, specifically the jíbaros, the rural population of Puerto Rico. It is a joyous form of dance. Originally, it was performed by six couples positioned in two rows, the men facing the women. In the routine of the seis, the dancers crossed and tapped their feet in measures that preceded the waltz.

It is not known for certain how the seis originated. It probably came from a combination of Spanish musical traditions combined with native expressions that originated in the Puerto Rican mountains. It was very popular among the people, which guaranteed its survival into modern times.

In past centuries, the bordonúa, the tiple, and the requinto were used to perform the music of the seis. Today, it is performed with the cuatro, guitar and güiro. Sometimes, bongos are added. The guitar and the güiro provide the rhythm of the seis, which is a measure in two-four times. It is characterized by its simple form of accompaniment, which is generally based on fundamental chords. The melody is also simple and is supplied by the cuatro and the guitar.

In general, the pattern of the rhythm varies between four and eight measures and is constantly repeated in the interludes, when the cuatro or the tiple embellish it while the troubadour sings. Normally, these instruments begin with a prelude that defines the type of seis that is going to be played, and then the singer sings and weaves in interludes or improvisations, while the musician shows off his abilities with the instrument. At the end of the seis, the song returns to the melody of the prelude, tied to a traditional coda.

The seis is sung using the Décima Espinela, or ten eight-syllable verses, and on a few occasions, eight-syllable quatrains are also sung. Often it ends with an obligatory repeated line, called a pie forzado, which ends the verse improvised by the singer.

There are numerous variations of the seis. They acquired their names from various sources: their choreography, as in the case of the chorreao, zapateao, bombeao, enojao, amarrao, valseao, matatoros, ñangotao, and the seis del machete; the name of a person, town or region, such as bayamonés, del dorado, de oriente, viequense, el antillano, el cayeyano, el cagüeño, el de pepe orne and el de andino; for the rhythm, such as the seis tumbao and the una y una; for the style of singing, such as the seis con décimas and the controversia; and for the influence of other musical genres, such as the seis milonga or the milonguero.

Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Source: Francisco Marrero Ocasio, Los instrumentos de cuerda en Puerto Rico, 2003. CD Vuelvo a mi Estrella. Taller Musical Retablo.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: August 28, 2014.

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