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Streetswings Dance History Archives: CHICA
Chica dancers and Band

The African Congo Chica Dance History Origins Title     The Chica comes from Africa where every tribe dances it, particularly the Congo. It is said to be sort of a calmer Fandango. The Negroes carried it with them to the Antilles where it soon became naturalized. This dance was so universal throughout south America and the West Indies, that at the commencement of the 20th century it was still danced in all religious ceremonies and processions.

     The nuns during the night of Christmas eve showed themselves to the public through the gratings of their convents, expressing, in the voluptuous agitations of the Chica, the joy they

felt for the birth of the Son of God, who came to take away, by his death, the sins of the world.

    America was not the only country that had been influenced by Africa in dancing; From the Moors it was that Spain first received that dance now so peculiar to it, the Fandango, which is nothing else than the Chica, under a more 'decent' form, the climate and other circumstances not permitting the performance of this latter with all its native concomitants. The origin of this dance it is very difficult to discover; but every thing in it seems to be the effect of a burning climate, and ardent constitutions. To dance it publicly was not allowed this side the West Indies even the Congo Square business was suppressed at one time; 1843, says tradition.

     In America, namely Louisiana, this dance was passionately admired among the Creoles (New Orleans), who enthusiastically adopted it on its introduction among them (around 1803). These Creole women would stand firmly in one place and Shimmy and Shake their booty all the while, undulating the body and handkerchief, held by the tip ends waving above her head. The male would move in the same way but with more aggression, showing his excitement and stamina, sorta moving in a stalking pattern, circling around her. The contortions of the encircling crowd were strange and terrible, the din was hideous. Even the musicians song was always a grossly personal satirical ballad like the Calenda, and the drums would be drumming away any thoughts of the day.

Carlos Blasis writes in 1830:
     The Chica is danced to the sound of any instrument whatever, but to one certain kind of tune, which is in a manner consecrated to it, and of which the movement is extremely rapid. The woman holds one end of a handkerchief, or the two sides of her apron, and the chief art on her part consists in agitating the lower part of the loins, whilst the rest of the body remains almost motionless. A dancer now approaches her with a rapid bound, flies to her, retires, darts forward a-fresh, and appears to conjure her to yield to the emotions which she seems so forcibly to feel. When the Chica is danced in its most expressive character, there is in the gestures and movements of the two dancers, a certain appearance more easily understood than described.

The scene offers to the eye, all that is lascivious, all that is voluptuous. It is a kind of contest, wherein every trick of love, and every means of its triumph, are set in action. Fear, hope, disdain, tenderness, caprice, pleasure, refusals, flight, delirium, despair, all is there expressed, and the inhabitants of Paphos, would have honoured the inventor of it as a divinity. I will not attempt to say what impressions the sight of this dance must occasion, when executed with all the voluptuousness of which it is susceptible. It animates every feature, it awakens every sensibility, and would even fire the imagination of old age.

     The Chica is now banished from the balls of the white women of South America, being far too offensive to decency; and is only sometimes performed in a few circles, where the small number of spectators encourage the dancer. At Cairo, where there are no theatres, there are a sort of actors, or leapers, who go about to private houses, and represent various scenic performances, wherein the most licentious and obscene attitudes bear a strong resemblance to the Chica, and the ancient mimics. Many of the Greek and Roman dances may be compared to the Chica and Fandango, and especially those practised at the time of the decline of dancing in both nations, when this art naturally became an object of contempt among men of taste and morality.

I am almost inclined to believe that the Chica owes its origin to some of the ancient dances. Greece, so fertile in productions of every kind, and which gave birth to Socrates and Diogenes, Phocion, and Alcibiades, Homer, and Aristophanes, Agoracrites, Cleophanes, Callipides, all of most extraordinary, but opposite, talents, Greece, I think the most likely nation to have created this voluptuous dance. The dance of the Angrismene, usually performed at festivals in honour of Venus, and still very common among the modern Greeks, may bear me out in my opinion. ... END.


Birth Place

Creation Date

Creator

Dance Type

Africa 1500s n/a Religious / Sacred
       

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a n/a Chica Cubana
            AURORE PRADÉRE

Night Clubs

Theaters

Locations

n/a n/a 1550s - Africa
            1805-1880 - Congo Square (New Orleans)
            San Domingo
            Trinidad

Instructional / Exercise

Television

Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a n/a
             
           

Publications

            n/a
                 

Other Related Dances of the time...

Angrismene Cayenne Gaumba Ring Shout Yanvalou
Babouille Circle Dance Love Song, the Rumba Zamacueca
Bamboula Congo Mambo Shango Zepaule
Calenda Counjaille Pattin' Juba son jarocho Voudon
Cata (Chacta) Fandango Petro    

Dancers, Choreographers etc.

Political

n/a n/a n/a
     

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
De la danse Moreau de Saint-Méry 1796 (pub.1801) Parme
A Treatise on Dancing Blasis, Carlo 1830 London
Century Magazine n/a 1886 n/a

Musicians

Singers

Poets / Writers

n/a n/a 1796 - Moreau de Saint-Méry (1750-1819)
       
           

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

Guadalupe Chica Mulatto Voodoo Shouters
quadroon Creole Dionysus plantation

Other...
n/a