The sardana (plural sardanas) is a circle dance associated with the Catalan region of Spain. The people of Catalonia occupy the northeastern corner of Spain spilling over the Pyrenees into French Roussillon. There are two main versions of this dance. The original version was the sardana curta (the short sardana). The modern and more popular version is the sardana llarga (the long sardana).

The origin of this dance is unknown though it has been popular since the 16th century. Similar Iberian and Meditarranean circle dances exist but the music for this dance has its own unique patterns.

It is a non-performance dance which does not require high levels of fitness. On the occasion I witnessed it I watched in amazement as an elderly genteman, who had been sitting on a newspaper placed on a step, laid his crutch aside and struggled to his feet. He then joined the circle closest to him Other circles had dancers who looked as if they were in their eighties.These older participants were enjoying a relaxing activity which helped their general health. The circles moved at the speed and with the energy levels of the majority of their participants. Some circles had predominately younger dancers and their circles moved with a lively energy.

The circles can be entirely of people of the same sex, mixed or with couples only. It is considered bad manners to join a circle made up entirely of couples. When a circle becomes too large, more circles are formed.

No special costume is needed, normal day wear is usual. Quite a few dancers were wearing the traditional rope espadrilles.

When I first arrived to watch the dance there were just three dancers present. They put their bags and outer clothing in a pile and then formed a circle around the pile. As time went on the number and size of the circles increased. At its' height there were perhaps between 150 and 200 people taking part.

People participating join hands together and with them held at shoulder height they dance with very small, precise steps, slowly round and round moving in a clockwise direction.

The music for the sardana (also called sardana) is played by a cobla - a wind band. Four of the instruments the tenora, tible, flabiol and tambori are typically Catalan. Some sardanas have sung versions but these are not usually played for dancing.

Many Catalans consider the regime to be distinct from Spain and there has been an independence movement for more than 150 years.The spanish dictator General Franco ruled Spain from the late 1940's to 1975. He considered the Catalan desire for independence and their national pride to be arrogant and insolent. Franco enforced crippling laws in a vain attemt to crush the traditions and language of the Catalans. Speaking Catalan was forbidden as was the sardana.

Under the Franco dictatorship Catalan was excluded from state education and all other official use. To reverse this decline since 1983 there are laws which attempt to enforce, to protect and encourage the use of Catalan.

This is the reason why the sardana is considered by the people of Catalonia to be a powerful symbol of national unity and identity which unites people from different walks of life and different circumstances.

Author's Bio: 

Dzagbe Cudjoe is a Dance and Movement Therapist, Intuitive Counselor, Healer and Ethnologist with a keen interest in promoting Dance as a means of achieving Mind-Body-and-Spirit integration... She is the author of the e-manual "Dance to Health -Help Your Special Needs Child Through Inspirational Dance". available at Dance to Health