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Calenda Voodoo Dancers
Calenda dance history origin Title

            From the exterior world of Voodoo comes the Calenda (Spanish) or Calinda (French) which is from the West Indies (Coast of Guinea and the Kingdom of Arda) sometime in the 1700's, but was probably from the Congo River in Africa due to the Slave trade of the time. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit several of the islands (11/11/1493.) In 1496 the first permanent European settlement was made by the Spanish on Hispaniola. By the middle 1600's the English, French, and Dutch had established settlements in the area.

      Large numbers of Africans were imported to this area to provide slave labor for the sugarcane plantations that developed there in the 1600s. Slave trade through the West Indies was in full scale by the 1700's and the United States would enter the scene in the late 18th century. The U.S. acquired Louisiana in 1803 from the French and a field at Congo Square would be setup for dancing by the slaves from about 1805 to 1880. This was to make the slaves happier and a happy slave would be much more productive as well as preventing any Voudon (Voodoo) dances from taking place. The Calenda is said to have arrived in the USA to Louisiana from San Domingo and the Antilles by these slaves. The original dances first done in Congo Square were Jigs, Fandango's and the Virginia Breakdown before 1837 says Henry Kmen of Tulane University. However later they would be doing other dances, among them were the Chica, Bamboula and Calenda, and eventually they became the main ones done. The Calenda music was a grossly personal satirical ballad, all danced to their traditional African drums.

      The Calinda was a dance of multitude, a sort of vehement cotillion. Men and women would dance with "Lascivious Gestures," the thighs together, striking them together in a rhythm patting, and would feature pelvic thrust's and hip gyrations. They then would separate with a pirouette, only to begin advancing towards each other all over again, doing the same movements with lascivious gestures. These dancers would sometimes last for hours and upon tiring, another would take their place. Throughout the dance the dancers would lock arms and make several revolutions, slapping their thighs and "kissing each other." The Calenda had numerous attempts of mock and ridicule and had actual attempts at banning the dance from society, and finally un-successfully banning the dance in 1843, however the Calenda lasted well into the late 19th century, despite the protests.

      The Cuban Rumba is said to be a descendant of the Calinda Dance.

      Monos de Calendas: Most likely no relation to the above but there is also the the Monos (Puppets) Calendas (religious processions) of Oaxaca, Mexico which is danced as a celebration with Puppets mounted over the heads and upper body of the children.

For More see bottom of page


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

West Indies 1720s Slaves Fertility/ Mating / Kissing

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles


n/a n/a Aurore Pradère ??
            Calalou ??
            Kalenda maia [MP3] ??
            Koanga: La Calinda [MP3] (Delius) ??
            La Calinda [MP3] (Delius) (Clip)
            Madame Caba ??
            The Calinda (Paul Whiteman) 1927 (Clip)
            The Calinda (Louis Lilenfeld 1928) (Clip)

Night Clubs



n/a n/a Carriacou
            Congo Square, New Orleans
            San Domingo
            West Indies

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a Koanga (1897)


            2/1886 - The Century Magazine

Other Related Dances of the time...

Bamboula Circle Dance Love Song, the Ring Shout Yanvalou
Cata (Chacta) Counjaille Pattin' Juba Shango Zamacueca
Cayenne Fandango Petro Voudon Zepaule
Chica Gaumba      

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


n/a n/a n/a

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance Marshal & Jean Stearns 1964 DaCapo Press
New Orleans As It Was Costellanos 1895 L. Graham Co



Poets / Writers / Artists

Clifton Chenier (6/25/1925-1988) n/a Pere Labat (1724)
Delius, Frederick (1862-1934)     G.W. Cablee (w. 1866)
Cicely Courtneidge (1928)     E.W. Kemble (1883)

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Bamboula (Drum) Dionysus Quadroon Tignon (headdress)
Belle-belle French Creole Reggae Zydeco
Bomba Legba (Haiti God) Shiva  
NOTE: Sometimes called: Calinga, Calindá, Calinda, chalenda, Kalenda and Zamacueca.


  • Reprinted from The Creole Slave dances in Place Congo -1886: (Used original spelling)

  • 1) "The true Calinda was bad enough. In Louisiana, at least, its song was always a grossly personal satirical ballad, and it was the favorite dance all the way from there to Trinidad. To dance it publicly is not allowed this side the West Indies. All this Congo Square business was suppressed at one time; 1843, says tradition. The Calinda was a dance of multitude, a sort of vehement cotillion. The contortions of the encircling crowd were strange and terrible, the din was hideous. One Calinda is still familiar to all Creole ears; it has long been a vehicle for the white Creoles satire; for generations the man of municipal politics was fortunate who escaped entirely a lampooning set to its air. In my childhood I used, at one time, to hear,every morning, a certain black marchailde descalas peddler-woman selling rice croquettes chanting the song as she moved from street to street at the sunrise hour with her broad, shallow, laden basket balanced on her head. Be covered by the roll of victims. The masters winked at these gross but harmless liberties and, as often as any others, added stanzas of their own invention. The Calinda ended these dissipation's of the Dan - ci ca - un - da, Bon-djoum! Bon-djoum Dan - ci ca- un - da, Bon-djoum! Boo-djoum! In other words, a certain Judge Preval gave a ball not an outdoor Congo dance and made such Cuffees as could pay three dollars a ticket. It doesn't rhyme, but it was probably true. Dance, dance the Calinda Boujourn! Boujoum! The number of stanzas has never been counted; here are a few of them.

  •      Dans lequirie la y a-cd grand gala; Mo en chonal la yi t ben itonni. Michi Preval, ii ti capitaine bal;
    So cocher Louis, ti maite cinimonie. Y avi des nigresses belle passi maitresses,
    Qul voli hel-bel dans lormoire momselle.
    ~. S * S S S
    Ala maite la geile li trouvi si drile,
    Li dit, mom aussi, mo fi bal ici.
    Guatebman la yi yi tombi la dans;
    Yi fi gran diga dans liquirie la. etc.

  •       It was in a stable that they had this gala night, says the song; the horses there were greatly astonished. Preval was captain; his coachman, Louis, was master of ceremonies. There were Negresses made prettier than their mistresses by adornments stolen from the ladies wardrobes (armoires). But the jailer found it all so funny that he proposed to him self to take an unexpected part; the watch men came down No official exaltation bought immunity from the jeer of the Calinda. Preval was a magistrate. Stephen Mazureau, in his attorney-generals office, the song likened to a bullfrog in a bucket of water. A page might summer Sabbath afternoons. They could not run far into the night, for all the fascinations of all the dances could not excuse the slaves tarrying in public places after a certain other bou-aj/oum / (that was not of the Calinda, but of the regular nine o'clock evening gun) had rolled down Orleans street from the Place dArmes; and the black man or woman who wanted to keep a whole skin on the back had to keep out of the Calaboose. Times have changed, and there is nothing to be regretted in the change that has come over Congo Square. Still a glamour hangs over its dark past. There is the pathos of slavery, the poetry of the weak oppressed by the strong, and of limbs that danced after toil, and of barbaric lovemaking. The rags and semi-nakedness, the bamboula drum, the dance, and almost the banjo, are gone; but the bizarre melodies and dark lovers apostrophes live on; and among them the old Counjaille song of Aerobe Brad~re." ... End Creole Reprint

  • 2) Pere Labat writes in 1724:
          Dancers are arranged in two lines, facing each other, the men on one side and the women on the other. Those who are tired of dancing form a circle with the spectators around the dancers and drums. The ablest person sings a song which he composes on the spot on any subject he considers appropriate. The refrain of this song is sung by everyone and is accompanied by a great hand clapping. As for the dancers, they hold their arms a little like someone playing castanets. They jump, make swift turns, approach each other to a distance of two or three feet then draw back with the beat of the drum until the sound of the drums brings them together again to strike their thighs together, that is, the men's against the women's. To see them it would seem that they are striking each other's bellies although it is only the thighs which receive the blows. At the proper time they withdraw with a pirouette, only to begin again the same movement with absolutely lascivious gestures; this, as many times as the drums give the signal, which is many times in a row. From time to time they lock arms and make several revolutions always slapping their thighs together and kissing each other. It can readily be seen by this abridged description to what degree this dance is contrary to al modesty ... End Labat Reprint