MARCH 2002

Cyber Dantza




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Your Questions: 
  • Is the Chicken Dance Basque?

Copyright © 2000, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce - http://www.oktoberfest-zinzinnati.com/dance.aspAlthough we often hear the "Chicken Dance" at Basque-American events, it is not of Basque origin.   

The Chicken Dance is also known by  other names including The Duck Dance, Dance Little Bird, Vogel Tanz, La Danse des Canards and El Baile de los Pajaritos.  It is very popular at Oktoberfest celebrations.  It has also become sort of classic wedding reception dance (if you watch as many movies as I do, you have probably seen it many times in wedding reception scenes of diverse ethnic groups).

The original name of this dance is Der Ententanz (The Duck Dance).  It was composed in the 1970's by Thomas Werner in Davos, Switzerland.  According to the composer's son, there are 140 versions of the song worldwide and it has sold 40 million copies.  

As you walk down the sidewalk of pretty much any town in the Basque Country, you can sometimes hear the chicken dance tune pouring out of slot machines in a bar.  The chicken dance was popularized all over Spain as el baile de los pajaritos  by María Jesús y su Acordeón (from Valencia) in the early 1980's.  

It has become a Spanish tradition to have a new crazy song and dance each summer.  Sometimes people remember what year a particular event occurred by thinking back to the song that was popular that summer.  Since the early 80's when Pajaritos was the summer fad, there have been many others including the famous Macarena.  The Chicken dance has not held on in the Basque Country the way it has here in the United States.

It is hard to say exactly how the Chicken Dance entered the Basque communities of the American West.  A few scenarios are likely.  In the first, a Basque-American vacationing in the Basque Country in the early 1980's may have seen the Chicken dance and assumed that it was traditional (or maybe just fun and easy) and they brought it back and introduced it here,  A second possibility is that it spread from another ethnic group in the States, such as the Germans, through their Oktoberfest celebration.  Finally someone may have first encountered it at a wedding reception and thought that it would be an easy dance for kids.  If you remember how and when the Chicken Dance was introduced into your Basque community send me an e-mail.

So, to sum things up, the Chicken Dance is not a Basque dance.  Perhaps it could be considered a European dance.  It began as a fad dance and just never went away to the delight of some and the dismay of others.  It has become a classic like the Hokey Pokey or the Electric Slide.

There is a traditional Native American dance also called the Chicken Dance that  bears no resemblance to the Chicken dance we are talking about here.

Here are some Chicken Dance links: 

El Baile de los Pajaritos by María Jesús y su Acordeón from MiCanoa.com

Brave Combo CD featuring the Chicken Dance from Amazon.com - If you search Amazon.com's music section for "Chicken Dance" under song title You'll be amazed at the selection they have!

Austrian Folk Dance Page with messages about the Chicken Dance

Article about Summer Fad Songs (in Spanish) from Canoa.com




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Dantzaldizkaria is an internet publication for Basque-American Dancers and dance enthusiasts 

copyright © L. Corcostegui 2001