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Farandole dancing in Saint-Geniès-de-Comolas

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[edit]

The farandole was first described in detail by the English folklorist Violet Alford in 1932.[1] The following description is from the county of Nice:[2] 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
time, with a moderate to fast tempo, and played by a flute and drum.

Historical context[edit]

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".[1][3]

Many recent websites,[4][5] older encyclopedias,[6] and some music history books[7] 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,[8] 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 "farandoulo", and the earliest appearance in the French form farandoule (as being derived from Occitan) is in 1776.[9] Its earliest appearance in English is even younger, 1876.[10] Consequently, the medieval dance researcher Robert Mullally concludes that there is no evidence that the modern folk farandole resembles any kind of medieval dance.[11]

In classical music[edit]

Farandole du ballet de Marseille (Farandole of the Ballet de Marseille) by Eduardo León Garrido [es].

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. There is a farandole in Camille Saint-Saëns' opera Les Barbares (1901), and a farandole is present in the classical saxophone piece Tableaux de Provence (1958) by Paule Maurice, the first movement of five.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1940 Abbott and Costello film, "A Night in the Tropics," the movie ends with the singing and dancing of "The Farandola."

In 1969, a band by the name of "Love Sculpture" had an album entitled Forms & Feelings. One of the songs was "Farandole" by Georges Bizet.[12]

Bob James on his album "Two" performed Bizet's Farandole in a jazz funk style. Released in 1975, the album charted at number two on the Jazz Album Charts.[13]

During his time as a member of the 1980s metal band Talas, Billy Sheehan performed another rock cover of Bizet's "The Farandole", which was subsequently covered, in a similar manner by Dream Theater. [14]

In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door, the Farandolae are fictional organelles of mitochondria, which have a similar endosymbiotic relationship with mitochondria, as mitochondria have with eukaryotic cells. Over the course of the novel, characters physically journey inside a mitochondrion and encounter the farandolae as sentient creatures that do circular "dances" around their "trees of origin" that drain the elder fara of energy.

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.[15]


  1. ^ a b Violet Alford (1932): The Farandole. Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society 1: 18–33.
  2. ^ "Au fifre niçois – Danses traditionnelles (farandoles, brandi) du comté de Nice". Au fifre niçois – MTCN: Musique traditionnelle du comté de Nice.
  3. ^ Jean Baumel (1958): Les Danses populaires, les farandoles, les rondes, les jeux choréographiques et les ballets du Languedoc méditerranéen. Institut d'études occitanes, Paris.
  4. ^ Ralf Brandhorst. "Worlds of Music". worlds-of-music.de.
  5. ^ "Farandole". medeltiden.kalmarlansmuseum.se.
  6. ^ Brockhaus Enzyklopädie in zwanzig Bänden: Siebzehnte völlig neu bearbeitete Auflage des Grossen Brockhaus. Band 6. F – GEB. FA Brockhaus Wiesbaden 1968
  7. ^ Jan Ling: Europas musikhistoria −1730. Esselte, Uppsala 1983
  8. ^ "Medieval Dancers". larsdatter.com.
  9. ^ Paul Robert, 2nd ed. rev. Alain Rey: Le Grand Robert de la langue francaise. Paris 1985, "Farandole"
  10. ^ J. Stainer & W. A. Barrett (eds.): A Dictionary of Musical Terms. London 1876, "Farandola"
  11. ^ Robert Mullally (2011): The Carole. A Study of a Medieval Dance. Ashgate Publishing Ltd., Burlington. page 35
  12. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Forms & Feelings – Love Sculpture – Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards – AllMusic". AllMusic.
  13. ^ "Bob James US albums chart history". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
  14. ^ The Majesty Demos 1985–1986; YtseJam Records Official Bootleg Series.
  15. ^ "Danza medieval 4". YouTube. 31 December 1969.

External links[edit]