Daily TWiP – National Dance Like A Chicken Day
Welcome to Daily TWiP, your daily dose of all the holidays, historical observances, etc., we couldn’t cram into The Week in Preview.
Anyone who’s ever been to a wedding is familiar with the Chicken Dance, that upbeat oom-pah song that gets everyone out on the dance floor to have fun and look silly. Today (May 14) in celebration of National Dance Like A Chicken Day, we’d like to share some of the history behind this ubiquitous party tune.
The song that would become known as the Chicken Dance was composed in the late 1950s by accordionist Werner Thomas of Switzerland. At that time, Thomas had a flock of ducks and geese that he tended, so he initially titled the song “Der Ententanz,” or “The Duck Dance.”
Thomas gave the first public performance of “Der Ententanz” at a restaurant in Davos, Switzerland, in 1963. The restaurant-goers were instantly charmed and began to dance along with the music, mimicking the birds that had given the song its name.
By the 1970s, the tune had become known as “Vogeltanz,” or “Bird Dance,” and had developed a set choreography. It was strictly a Davos phenomenon, however, until a Belgian music publisher on vacation stopped by the restaurant at which Thomas played.
Thanks to this music publisher, the popularity of “Vogeltanz” soon spread throughout Europe. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. publishing rights to the song were acquired by Stanley Mills of September Music Corp., who had a surprisingly hard time selling it.
Mills was determined, however, to introduce Americans to the joys of “Vogeltanz” and promoted the song tirelessly. He convinced several bands to record it on their albums, but the song never made it on to the pop charts.
People may not have been calling into radio stations and requesting that “Vogeltanz” be played on the air, but the song was slowly gaining popularity on the live music circuit, with bands performing it at Oktoberfests, weddings, and other such functions. Mills realized just how popular the song had become when the band at his son’s bar mitzvah played it without knowing the family’s connection to the song.
By the mid 1990s, Mills was getting phone calls from record labels and advertising executives, asking to use the song that had come to be known as the Chicken Dance on their compilation CDs and in their commercials. It took almost two decades, but the Chicken Dance had finally arrived in the U.S.
The Chicken Dance is known by many names, with some calling it “The Birdie Dance,” “Tchip-Tchip,” or “The Song of the Chicken.” The little-used lyrics also have different meanings in different languages, rather than being the same words translated. No matter where you go in the world, however, the melody is still the same, which means you can do the Chicken Dance in Spain just as easily as in New Hampshire.
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- Teresa Santoski