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
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
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:
Baile de los Pajaritos by María Jesús y su Acordeón from
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
Folk Dance Page with messages about the Chicken Dance
about Summer Fad Songs (in Spanish) from Canoa.com