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Streetswings Dance History Archives: Canaries
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Danse des Canaries

            The Canary Islands (Islas Canarias) are a group of seven islands, an autonomous region of Spain, in the Atlantic Ocean off the western Sahara and constitute two provinces of Spain. The Treaty of Alcácovas (1479) between Portugal and Spain recognized Spanish sovereignty over the Canaries. Folklore says: 'The Spanish explorers named the Islands after what they saw looked like a canary hopping on its perch when the native's were dancing'. The dance is sometimes referred to as 'the Hay'. Wine was the main export of the Canaries until the grape blight of 1853. The Canaries were frequently raided by pirates and privateers.

      There has not been much written on the 'Il canaries dance' but what I can find is that the Canaries dances were popular in

the sixteenth century and was most graceful both in the leg and arm movements, however the dance was considered very difficult to do. Later it traveled thru Spain into France and ending in England, supposedly contributing to the masque. It was originally done as a funeral dance (1552 - endechas de Canario) and have been said to be done by the "Savages" of the island, this changed over time and became a theatrical or stage dance with much vigour, athleticism, snapping of fingers (Chioppare or Chrich) or Castagnettes. The Danse des Canaries was the next closest thing to the courant as a courtship dance with the Canario of Spain being considered the father of the Jota.

      The Canaries dance was generally done by men while the female version was called the "Gigue pour une femme," while the music was generally done in 3/8 time and may be done in 2/8 time. Shakespeare also speaks of "canary-it with your feet." It is said to have originated in a ballet composed for a masquerade, the costumes those of the kings and queens of Morocco. The dance is considered to be related to the Schuhplatter and Bohemian Proti-sobe dance.

      One couple dances through the hall. A lady is taken out by a gentleman, they dance together; he leads her to the end of the hall, always looking at her, leaves her and dances backwards, then moves forward and makes up to her again, and retreats as before. Then his partner does the same, and this is repeated several times with various steps. The dance was sometimes accompanied by castanets. The movements are said to be bold, bizarre and exotic. The steps consists of a skip and a stomp with the alteration of the heel and sole in the stamp. The dance consisted of many Pirouettes and semi-caprioles. This dance was considered very difficult and only the better dancers were allowed to dance it.

      The Canaries dance was a Court dance, and in the early court dances the Pantomime (see courant for idea) played a major part of these dances and by 1550 the Pantomime part was all but forgotten. The Danza Antigua de Hermigua is an ancient warrior dance from the Hermigua region in the Gomera Island (Canary Islands, Spain). Accompanied by drums and chácaras (large castanets).

      The dance is for two people or may be done as couple. Costume may be of Moroccan Kings and Queens.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Canary Islands 1500s Ballet Courtship

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a n/a Canarie - [1693] - (Lully)
            Canarie (Couperin)
            Canarie (Gelinek)
            Canarie in A (Gaultier le vieux)
            Canaries in G [Gigue] (Chambonnieres)
            La dance de la Haye
            "Masque of Love" by Purcell* (Diocletian), published by Novello
            Couperin: Livre de Tablature [CD]
            Funeral Music for Queen Mary* [CD]
            On the Banks of Helicon: [CD]
            The Scottish Lute [CD]

Night Clubs



n/a n/a n/a



Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a 1693 - Alcide


            $ Toques antiguos y festivos de Canarias
Ballet Court dance Hoventanz Quadrille
Basse Dance Cracoviene Lancers Saltarello
Bouffons Danse des Canaries Landler Spanish Dance
Bransles Couran Danza Antigua de Hermigua Minuet Sword Dance
cascarde Galliarde Pantomime Tordiglione
Choral Dance German Gofenanz Pavane Tordion
Cornucopia Hautes Dance Polka Varsouvonia
Cotillion Hay or Hey, The (Canaries) Piva Waltz

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Diego Pisador (c.1552) Cesare Negri Louis XIV (1638-1715)
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1987) Marco Fabritio Caroso  
Pierre Beauchamps (1635-1709)    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...





Orchesographie Thoinot Arbeau n/a n/a
Libro di gagliarda, tordiglione, passo e mezzo, cannarii e passeggi Livio Lupi di Caravaggio 1607 n/a
How To Dance ... Ancient dances revived Holt, Arden 1907 Cox
Le Gratie d'Amore Negri, Cesare n/a n/a
Il Ballarino Caroso, Marco Fabritio n/a n/a
Nobilta di Dame Caroso, Marco Fabritio n/a n/a



Poets / Writers

Chambonnieres, Jacques Champion (1602-1672) Antoine Gaber Barclay (c.1508)
Couperin, Francois (1668-1733)      
Gaultier le vieux, Ennemond (1580-1651)        
Gelinek, Ivan (1683-1759)        
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1987)        
Purcell, Henry (1659-1695)        

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

Canario Court Dance n/a -
Dioclesian Funeral Dance      


  1. Pas jetté:
    Throw the right foot over the left, and the left over the right. The cavalier takes the lady's hand, and advances with four steps, and then wheels round, and continues for fourteen bars. During the bars fifteen and sixteen the cavalier turns the lady, and they end holding each other by both hands, vis-à-vis. The first movement occupies sixteen bars.
  2. Pas de basque (diagonal tract):
    Four bars forward, and four bars back. Repeat, making sixteen bars altogether. Hands remain as in figure One.
  3. Pas sauté. Pas de basque. Tract round:
    Hold both hands vis-à-vis. The cavalier springs on the right foot, and makes a pas de basque to the left, turning back to back. The lady jumps on the left foot, takes a pas de basque to the right. The cavalier holds the lady's left Canaries. hand the whole time, the other hands touch in turn. This occupies fifteen bars. At bar sixteen, the cavalier turns the lady to the left and poses, still holding hands.
  4. Pas jetté:
    Cross hands, pas jetté forward and back-ward once during two bars. The cavalier turns the lady across from left to right, performs a pas jetté again, and turns the lady from the right to left.
  5. Pas jetté:
    Repeat this for six bars. The cavalier turns the lady during the seventh bar, and poses during the eighth bar. Repeat pas jetté for six bars, turn and pose as before. Sixteen bars in all.
  6. Coupé temps levé:
    For this, hold hands vis-à-vis, coupé and pirouette in opposite directions, meeting face to face again; repeat four times. In turning, the hands are raised over the head.
  7. Hold hands vis-à-vis.
    Turn each other without separating hands (one bar), pose vis-à-vis (one bar); Canaries. repeat four times. The hands are never loosed during the whole figure. Eight bars only.