The Catalan Sardana: a guide to getting off on the right foot
Article updated 15 April, 2019.
Leave the flamenco to the Andalucians. In Catalonia you dance the sardana! Traditional and friendly, it is really worth a look.
The Sardana is very different to flamenco! While flamenco is danced by one dancer and is full of ardour, the sardana is a fairly simple dance performed in a group. It is little known outside of Spain but it has an important place in the cultural heritage of Catalonia.
The sardana, a hundred year old dance
The sardana is danced in a circle, so it is part of the great tradition of Mediterranean group dances dating back to the first century. But it is only since the 19th Century that it has been performed according to specific rules.
The modern sardana
Live music and dance
As the flabiol (a little flute) plays, the dancers form a circle, holding hands. They leave their bags and belongings in the middle of the circle and dance the steps to the rhythm of the cobla (the orchestra).
At a sardana performance you don’t simply admire the dancers, you are also soothed by the music that accompanies them.
A friendly tradition
Everyone participates in the sardana, beginners and all. So single people join a circle specially for them. Generally you alternate men and women in the circle.
If the circle becomes too big, it divides, so the more dancers there are the more impressive it looks as the place fills up with circles.
The dance might look simple but it requires precision and coordination. The steps are fast and if one person in the circle makes a mistake the whole circle loses the beat!
Here is a video where you can see the precision of the dancers, and also learn to dance the sardana in 30 seconds (if you’re very good…)
A Catalan symbol
It is no accident that the sardana acquired its official status during the 19th century. It was during this period of renaixença (renaissance), that the Catalan people undertook to reclaim their identity on the margin of Spanish society, and the sardana thus became a symbol of cultural difference.
During Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975), the Sardana was ferociously opposed, as was the case with all symbols of Catalan culture. But of course the Catalan attachment to their traditional dance was more powerful than Franco and came back with even more force at the end of his dictatorship.
Where can you see sardana performances?
All year long numerous sardana performances take place in Barcelona. They are done either by amateurs or by fans of this dance who participate in championships. You will recognise the latter by their traditional costumes and their laced espadrilles.
- In front of Barcelona cathedral: February to July, Saturdays at around 6:30pm and Sundays and holidays at noon.
- Plaça Sant Jaume: Sundays around 6:30pm
- Parc de la Ciutadella: From January to the first Sunday in March, Sundays at noon.
- Parc de l’Espanya Industrial: from mid-April to end of September, Fridays at 7:30pm.
- Joan Miró Park: From December to March, the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month at noon. In April, October and November, the 1st and 3rd Sundays at noon.
- Parc de les Tres Xemeneies (Poble Sec): from December to July, the second Sunday of the month at noon.
So are you ready to get on the dance floor?
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