The Joropo, [huh-roh-poh] also known as the Venezuelan Waltz, became Venezuela's national dance in 1882 and is authentically Venezuelan, the word joropo now broadly defining poetry, music, fashion, and dance genres.
The joropo musical style, which is similar to the waltz, is played with the four-string guitar called the cuatro, the arpa llanera (harp), maracas, and mandolin. Making use of polyrhythmic patterns and alternating 3/4 and 6/8 tempos, joropo was first played and sung by the people called llaneros who lived in Venezuela and Columbia on the Llanos (plains). Hence the music was named música llanera. At one time the word "joropo" meant "party" but became a phrase to describe this particular music and dance that is specific to Venezuelans. The most well known joropo is "Alma Llanera" (soul of the plains) by Pedro Elías Gutiérrez, and was also famously sung by tenor Placido Domingo.
A very upbeat dance, joropo is found all over Venezuela. It is syncopated and exciting, said to be Spanish in origin but Venezuelan in feeling. The dance is for couples and has as many as thirty-six variations of its basic step, utilizing hand turns, waltz turns, and movement of the feet. In some cases the partners may hold each other tightly and dance a waltz, then face each other and make small steps forward and backward, sweeping the floor, then while holding arms the woman takes large steps and the man stomps his feet to the rhythm.
In a joropo flirting dance, striking the floor quickly with the heels of their feet and keeping their bodies loose, the couple may play as if the man is trying to conquer the woman. While he rotates and turns around her, pursuing the woman in the center of his circle, the woman acts careless and circumspect and progressively gets nearer to the man.
There are about six different types of joropo, a few of which are the Corrido Tuyero, Pasaje, and Golpe Aragueño. Today, virtually any time Venezuelans come together, the joropo is danced. Traditional clothing such as the liquiliqui is often worn at competitions or ferias (festivals) by schoolchildren who learn the dance early on at school.