The Macarena dance accompanies a song that was the single most popular one-hit-wonder to ever hit the American music scene. It spent 60 weeks on the Top 100 charts, and fourteen of those were at the number one spot. As a dance it is performed everywhere from grade schools to checkpoints in Iraq, and has been alternately lampooned, ridiculed, remixed and championed.
What the Heck IS a Macarena?
In fact, the "Macarena" is a play on words. The song was originally spontaneously created by the performing group Los del Rio to honor a Venezuelan flamenco dancer Diana Patricia Cubillán Herrera for her incredible performance during their visit. In that song they referred to her as "Magdalena:"
"Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Ma'dalena, que tu cuerpo e' pa' darle alegría y cosa' Buena"
(Translation: "Give your body some joy, Magdalene, 'cause your body is for giving joy and good things to")
Los del Rio thought the song had some potential, and they decided to release it as a recording in 1993. However, since there had already been a song out called "Magdalena" (a colloquial term denoting a sexy, assertive woman), they decided to name it after one of their children, Macarena.
This was not to imply that the Macarena was about an innocent. Very similar to the story of Carmen in Bizet's opera, the Macarena was the the girlfriend of a soldier who cheated on him when he was gone and was obsessed with material goods that he could never provide for her.
The song went through several incarnations not only by the original composers, Los del Rio:
- In 1993 Macarena is released as a Rumba
- Also released in Spanish and Mexican markets with a Flamenco beat.
- Used in Puerto Rico as campaign song for Pedro Rossello.
- In 1996, the Bayside Boys gave it English lyrics and it became a worldwide number one hit.
- In 1995, Los del Mar covered the song and released it in the UK, never making it into the top 40.
The Macarena Dance
The Macarena dance has become one of the most popular line dances performed in contemporary culture. Weddings, parties, bars, any location where people dance can turn into a "macarena." The dance can be performed by one person or 500, and as long as they can turn ninety degrees in each direction, no more space is needed than standing room.
Originally created for the music video by Los del Rio, the Macarena dance is as follows:
- The dancer puts their right arm forward, palm down. Leave it there.
- The dancer puts their left arm forward, palm down.
- Turn arms over, palms are up, one at a time, first right, then left.
- Dancer's right hand goes to left shoulder, holds.
- Dancer's left hand goes to right shoulder, so that the arms are crossed in an X across the chest.
- One at a time the dancer puts their hands behind their head - first right, then left.
- Through all of these moves, the dancer should bounce slightly to the beat of the music, bending the knees up and down and letting the hips sway back and forth. It is a loose dance.
- Hands go to hips, right on left hip, then left on right. In more suggestive versions of the dance the hands might go to the hips of the person directly in front of the dancer.
- The dancer's hands are placed on their buttocks, first the right cheek, then the left.
- As the singer sings "Hey, Macarena!" the hips are either rotated in a figure-8 pattern or given sharp pelvic thrusts.
- With a small hop the dancer turns 90 degrees to their left and begins step one.
Because of its simplicity and repetitive choreography, the dance actually provides a lot of social interaction in the form of laughing at easily-correctable mistakes, flirting, and just plain fun. While its popularity has waned, there is no doubt the Macarena is one of the defining songs of popular culture.