This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Chicken Dance in Canada. A band called The Emeralds first introduced it to Canadian banquet halls in Edmonton, Alberta in 1982. According to Wikipedia, the Chicken Dance, or Bird Dance as it is sometimes called, was originally composed in the 1950s by a Swiss guy named Werner Thomas. But The Emeralds’ polka-inspired version was the one that popularized it at weddings everywhere. Their “Bird Dance” album went double-platinum in Canada and earned multiple gold albums. That tells you a lot about Canada.
“Composed” might seem like a strong verb for the Chicken Dance. But you have to give credit where credit is due. When have you been to a wedding or on a cruise when you haven’t done the Chicken Dance? Between it, the Hokey Pokey and the Macarena, that pretty much says party right there.
I might have missed this special occasion if it hadn’t been for my sister-in-law in Edmonton who told me about it. She and my brother-in-law are friends with a member of The Emeralds, who apparently still play gigs where the Chicken Dance is invoked and who are still happily collecting royalties.
If you don’t know the dance, here are the basic steps (if memory serves):
In a group, standing in a circle facing one another, raise your arms, elbows bent, making the form of chicken beaks with your fingers pressed together.
When the music starts, make hand gestures for 4 counts like chickens clucking. La la la-la la-la la.
Stick your fingers under your armpits and make gestures for 4 counts like chickens flapping their wings. La la la-la la-la la.
Clasp your hands behind your lower back making gestures like chicken tail feathers while you wiggle your hips down and then up again for 4 counts like chickens shaking their tail feathers. La La La La!
Stand still and clap for 4 counts. La La La La!
Repeat a few times.
At the musical bridge, everybody polka! (See alternate recommended activities for the bridge on the internet — there seem to be numerous regional variations.)
Now, there are a couple of people close to me reading this who are thinking, “Oh, she’s NOT going to tell her Chicken Dance story, is she?” Never fear. I am not going to tell my Chicken Dance story on Facebook or on the blogosphere. I’d have to be nuts to do that.
Suffice to say that there was a wedding involved. And I’m not saying anything about what happened, but I will give you some advice.
Never speculate about whether there will be dancing at the wedding you are about to attend while you are in the shower getting ready for said wedding. And never start singing that Chicken Dance tune in the shower calling out to your better half who is shaving at the sink, “Hey honey, do you think they’ll play the Chicken Dance?” And never ever do the Chicken Dance IN the shower, especially the hip swivel. And never, ever, EVER, grab for the shower curtain as you find yourself slipping in the tub and falling tuchis over teakettle backwards OUT of the shower.
They say that you can’t get seriously hurt while you are laughing. But I wouldn’t trust that. Follow my advice instead.
Our nephew is getting married in Edmonton in September. We are looking forward to the wedding but I kind of hope there won’t be any Chicken Dancing. I might not be able to stop laughing. And if my sister-in-law breathes a word of this story to ANYONE, I will disavow its veracity. Nothing ever happened in any shower at any time while we were ever getting ready to go to any wedding.
Dedicated to my dear sister-in-law, Donna - thanks for the blog topic!