History of Farandole Dance
History of Farandole Dance History of Farandole Dance

The farandole is an open-chain community dance popular in Provence, France.

The farandole bears similarities to the gavotte, jig, and tarantella.

The carmagnole of the French Revolution is a derivative.

Traditional Dance
The farandole was first described in detail by the English folklorist Violet Alford in 1932.

The following description is from the county of Nice: Traditionally led by the abbat-mage holding a ribboned halberd, the dancers hold hands and skip at every beat; strong beats on one foot, alternating left and right, with the other foot in the air, and weak beats with both feet together. In the village of Belvédère, on the occasion of the festival honoring patron Saint Blaise, the most recently married couple leads the dance. Musically, the dance is in 6/8 time, with a moderate to fast tempo, and played by a flute and drum.

Historical Context
Folklorists of the early 20th century (e.g. Alford 1932) interpreted most folk dances as being very ancient, and postulated even for the farandole an ancestry traceable to ancient Greece, remaining more or less unchanged "during its two or three thousands years of life".

Many recent websites, older encyclopedias, and some music history books claim that the farandole is a medieval dance, but never provide an actual medieval quote mentioning the farandole. While there exist renaissance descriptions of chain and circle dances, and medieval and renaissance iconography showing people dancing in chains and circles, there is no connection between these early dances and the recent folk farandole: Arbeau, the most well-known source for renaissance chain and circle dances such as the branle, does not contain any dance with farandole-specific steps and figures.

The term "farandole" is not found in dictionaries of Old French or of Old Occitan, and the earliest appearance in the French form farandoule (as being derived from Occitan) is in 1776. Its earliest appearance in English is even younger, 1876. Consequently, the medieval dance researcher Robert Mullally concludes that there is no evidence that the modern folk farandole resembles any kind of medieval dance.

In Classical Use
Charles Gounod used a farandole, set in front of the Arles Amphitheatre, to open the second act of his opera Mireille (1864). Georges Bizet features the farandole as the fourth and concluding movement of his second L'Arlésienne suite (1872). In Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty ballet (1890), the dames propose a farandole in the fourth scene of the second act. A farandole is present in the classical saxophone piece Tableaux de Provence (1958) by Paule Maurice, the first movement of five.

In Popular Culture
During his time in the 80's metal band Talas, Billy Sheehan wrote a song called "The Farandole". It includes electric guitar and bass soloing together with drums keeping up the rhythm. In their early days Dream Theater (then only consisting of Johns Myung and Petrucci and Mike Portnoy) did a go on this song, available on The Majesty Demos 1985-1986 of the YtseJam Records Official Bootleg Series.
In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door, the Farandolae are fictional creatures that live inside mitochondria, and do circular "dances" around their "trees of origin".

Jazz musician Bob James arranged and recorded a jazz version of Farandole from Bizet's L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2 on his album Two (1975).
Currently, the popular punk/ska band Streetlight Manifesto opens their shows to the tune of Farandole.

Within the Society for Creative Anachronism and other associations who attempt to recreate dances of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the farandole is sometimes danced due to its assumed medieval origin (but see the historical concerns above). Examples can be found on YouTube.

The English folk/dance band, Blowzabella, taught the dance and played melodies for many of the session since 1978. The Farandole melodies are found in their dance tune book. The dance is easy to teach and can include new moves made up on the spot.

Violet Alford (1932): The Farandole. Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society 1: 18-33.
Violet Alford (1932): The Farandole. Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society 1: 18-33.
Jean Baumel (1958): Les Danses populaires, les farandoles, les rondes, les jeux choréographiques et les ballets du Languedoc méditerranéan. Institut d'études occitanes, Paris.
Brockhaus Enzyklopädie in zwanzig Bänden: Siebzehnte völlig neu bearbeitete Auflage des Grossen Brockhaus. Band 6. F - GEB. FA Brockhaus Wiesbaden 1968
Jan Ling: Europas musikhistoria -1730. Esselte, Uppsala 1983
Paul Robert, 2nd ed. rev. Alain Rey: Le Grand Robert de la langue francaise. Paris 1985, "Farandole"
J.Stainer & W.A.Barret (eds.): A Dictionary of Musical Terms. London 1876, "Farandola"
Robert Mullally (2011): The Carole. A Study of a Medieval Dance. Ashgate Publishing Ltd., Burlington. page 35

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. -Buddha

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