La Sardana–Catalonia’s National Dance


La Sardana is a unique dance exclusive to Catalonia  and practiced by  people of all ages. This is not just a dance, but an expression of unity that has played a pivotal role in Catalan tradition.  Because of this, it has made its way into every major festival, as well as being a regular Sunday event.  Once, strictly regulated by Spain’s former dictator, General Franco, this is Catalonia’s national dance and a potent symbol of Catalan identity. (Which I’m certain has Franco rolling over in his grave).


As elegant as the tango, waltz or foxtrot, and as complex as la salsa, tap or swing; this fun little jig is said to have roots dating back to the 16th century.  Although its origins are not completely clear, there’s significant evidence of it making its debut in Empordà, in the province of Girona.  By the end of the 19th century; however, its popularity spread across the region, and soon the masses began brushing off their dancing shoes and making their way to town squares to join in on what had become the latest fad.

If you’ve ever been to La Plaça de la Catedral in Barcelona, you may have been lucky enough to have had an eye-witness account of this social affair. It has now caught on as a mainstream tourist attraction, and you can feel free to snap photos, and observe in the shadows. At first glance, one might think that La Sardana is an easy two step jive, with nothing more than a hop and a skip involved, but when fully committed to learning the steps, you’ll soon find that it’s not as easy as it looks, and that Catalans take great pride in dancing it well.  This is demonstrated by the seriousness of their faces brought on by their extreme level of concentration.  If you’re tempted to try it, you should know that they’re a bit reserved when it comes to foreigners wanting to pirouette around with them, mostly but because it only takes one individual to throw off their rhythm, and this makes them look bad.  My advice to tourists is–don’t jump in if you think it’s a joke.


The reedy, obo-sounding tunes it’s danced to are also somewhat unique.  It’s played by a band consisting of 10 wind instruments, a double bass and a tamborí (very small drum) played by 11 musicians.  The dance tempo is usually a steady metronome beat of about 112, in a 2/4 and/or 6/8 rhythm. Um pa pa, um pa pa, um pa pa.  There are two ways it can be danced, both requiring a group of individuals to make a ring formation, clasp hands and move around in a circle, all the while keeping with the beat of the music, and of course following certain foot patterns.  There a several versions of this dance, with the most common being the original,  sardana curta (short sardana)  and the more modern and popular, sardana llarga (long sardana).  Watch this short video clip to see how it done.


This is not a strenuous activity, so no physical training should be necessary; however, the right foot gear is essential for both comfort and safety.  Depending on your stamina, the dance can last quite a while and if preformed properly, you’ll have to jump off the ground ever so gracefully, making this dance an ankle sprain hazard for rookies and veterans a like.  To prevent this from happening, there’s a special shoe made specifically for la sardana, called espardenya, which is equipped with extra support and cushion to ensure a soft touchdown.  It’s also a huge aid in keeping their faces expressionless.

Some helpful tips for dancing La Sardana:

You need the right shoes…..                                                                                                                                la sardana shoes


Proper hand grip is key…
1-30-2016 10-52-16 AM

They learn young….

Make sure you know the steps before joining in…
Sardana steps

It’s a very serious matter…

Wrong way to do it….

Right way to do it….

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