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What is the Sarabande?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 23, 2024
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As a centuries old, slow dance originating in what is now Central America, the sarabande is a beautifully crafted performance dance that remains a popular choice today. One of the first mentions of it in recorded history was in 1539. Referred to as the zarabanda in a poem composed by Fernando Guzman Mexia, the triple meter construction of the dance was apparently already gaining popularity among the Spanish colonists in the New World. As Spanish nationals began to travel back and forth between the colonies and the Spanish court, sarabandes found their way into the culture of the homeland.

Considered to be an extremely erotic dance by many, the sarabande was actually banned in 1583, considered to be too obscene for polite company. Mentions of the music and dancing continued to show up in the popular writings of the day, however.

By the Baroque period, the sarabande was beginning to experience a resurgence of sorts, finding its way into instrumental suites of the period, as well as the popular dance movements that accompanied the compositions. The version performed in this era was not exactly like the old days, however, in that the triple meter was slowed down a great deal. This brought the dance more in line with the purportedly more sedate and dignified concepts of European sensibilities, and provided a means for it to be interpreted for a new age.

The faster tempo sarabande returned strongly in the 20th century, with much credit for its revival attributed to composers such as Satie and Debussy. Restored to its full glory, the revived music and the accompanying moves of the dancers provided a treat for enthusiasts of Spanish music and culture, as well as bringing some romance back into the fine art of dancing. There were not any renewed discussions about the so-called obscene nature of the dance, although there is general agreement that the moves are erotic in nature.

Today, the sarabande continues to enjoy a place as one of the best examples of Spanish dancing, as well as for the contributions it has made to French, English, and US culture over the years. It is often considered to be an exciting yet intimate dance, which lovers will no doubt be dancing for many years to come.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Musical Expert, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon151911 — On Feb 11, 2011

wow. it was banned?

By anon83065 — On May 09, 2010

Hello thank you for this article. Could you help me find the dance steps as I want to research the sarabande. many thanks

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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