What is this dance called?
September 9, 2014 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Please help identify a dance from an old movie.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Fandango. There is a scene at the end where Costner and Amis dance to a "Fandango". Costner takes out a handkerchief, and that's how the dance starts. Just wondering if anyone knows what kind of dance this is. I know very little about Texas dance styles, but I just think this dance is so beautiful. Here is the link to the scene:
Fandango end scene

The dance starts at about 3:24.
posted by jenh526 to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
I'll admit I didn't watch the whole clip (past where he says, "hey, how 'bout a fandango?") or the movie, but I think it would be pretty strange it the dance weren't a fandango.
posted by bricoleur at 8:51 PM on September 9, 2014

Other YouTube clips of actual fandango are different, though.

(Do watch the clip, bricoleur - it's a great film, and has inspired me to make an FPP even.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 PM on September 9, 2014

Well, I haven't seen this movie, but I did watch the entire clip, and was a bit surprised by how little analyzable footage of actual dancing there was. Add to that the fact that "fandango" is an extremely broad appellation, my best guess is that whatever "dance" they were doing was specifically choreographed for the film, and unlike, say, the Tango or the Lindy Hop, not a terribly accurate rendition of any specific social dance form.
posted by trip and a half at 9:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

An older Oklahoman I knew (RIP) was a celebrated dancer and when that movie came on cable, I was told "that just how he danced" and then there was a list of non-fandago dances he also knew.

The handkerchief is so you are not holding hands.

My impression is that they were comparing Costner ' s charm and flourishes (and using the music as a cue) rather than analyzing footwork and moves.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:06 AM on September 10, 2014

EmpressCallipygos - do you have a link to your FPP? I'd be interested in reading that.

Thanks for the replies. I also assumed the dance was choreographed for the movie, but I thought it might be based on a Texas dance style. I agree that it was too short - I love watching good dancing.
posted by jenh526 at 6:26 AM on September 10, 2014

I'm making the FPP right now!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 AM on September 10, 2014

I tried to find the time signature for the music, but failed. Often that will help identify the basis of the dance. It could be based on fandango rhythms. The meter of fandango is similar to that of the bolero and seguidilla. It was originally notated in 6/8 time, but later in 3/8 or 3/4.
posted by theora55 at 1:58 PM on September 10, 2014

Well, in the comments to this Youtube posting of the same dance, one commenter chimes in to say "thats not a fandango" while another immediately replies, "it is fandango".

So I think there is your answer, straight from the most reliable source on the internet . . .

A little more specifically, I don't think this is at all a traditional portuguese fandango dance (example here). However, in Texas there is the tradition of the Fandango--which is something related but different. "Fandango" in Texas history means this:
Dance halls draw their roots from folk dancing parties and, in Texas, that means the "fandango," a term used during the Spanish colonial period to describe a celebration organized by the Hispanic community complete with music, dancing, eating, gambling, and drinking. Sometimes fandangos were held in the streets and other times in temporary dance halls called "fandango" houses.
More detail from this site:
the most popular entertainment to attract revelers from all parts of the Hispanic community was the fandango, a dance of Spanish derivation. Since the colonial period the term had come to refer to a kind of diversion, usually a festive gathering marked by music, dancing, gambling, drinking, and eating. Fandangos were held in the streets, in makeshift dance halls, or in fandango houses throughout the year. Violins and guitars at these functions played the equivalent of "Turkey in the Straw" while couples danced a polka or bolero. The fandangos were outlawed by the 1870s
So first off, this particular "Texas Fandango" as this massive party/dancing/drinking/blow-out type thing is the specific reference of "Fandango" in the movie title. It's a big Texas party, not a Spanish or Portuguese dance--though the two do have some relation to each other.

And furthermore, note that the dances mentioned at a Texas Fandango are NOT fandangos per se, but "polka" and "bolero" (and presumably other similar dances from that period). There was a lot of improvising and making do in the dancing--new folk dance forms developing and changing through circumstance and necessity:
Less sophisticated settlers not inclined toward formal dance training romped off to "all invited, none slighted" shindigs, where a manager kept a list of dance partners. The people exuberantly polkaed the splinters off of split-log floors and schottisched across wagon sheets spread on the ground. They copied the refined forms of the old-time folk dances, improvising when necessary to complete a half-remembered sequence or when the proper music was not available.
So I'm guessing (and I will confess up front that I don't have any first-hand experience with this) that what we're seeing in the movie has a lot to do with Texas-style Country-Western Dance with its gliding steps, made to be danced by men in cowboy boots as Costner is wearing. That's what the dancing I'm seeing in that clip reminds me of - tons of examples on Youtube.

The "fandango" that he requests might refer to some local variant called a "fandango" that involves a relatively lively tempo and some show-off/fancy footwork. Those elements and maybe a bit of a Spanish flair or rhythm might be the only elements linking this to the standard 'dictionary' Fandango. Or it might simply refer to the typical type of music/dance most commonly seen at a Texas Fandango.

Related, the music played after Costner calls for a fandango is Pat Metheny's "It's for You" (listen starting about 5:00 here). This is most emphatically not a traditional fandango at all--for starters fandangos are typically in triple time and this isn't. But the driving rhythm of the guitar is a bit fandango-like in a way and my guess is that the music, like the dance, is a Hollywood-ish way of evoking something of what they imagine a fandango would be like, both in dance and music, without getting caught up too much in the precise details, and with the Texas Fandango and general country-western dancing as the immediate background, and not the Spanish/Portuguese Fandango dance.
posted by flug at 11:26 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was doing some more searching around last night, and it did seem to me that the closest videos were the ones with country swing dancing (some of which you linked to). Thanks for the in-depth research, flug.
posted by jenh526 at 6:24 AM on September 11, 2014

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