The Essential Chicken Dance
The chicken dance has become as essential to an American Oktoberfest celebration as beer. The tune for the song was written in the late 1950s by a Swiss accordion player named Werner Thomas, who at the time tended a flock of ducks and geese. Thomas, now 72 years old, began performing his unnamed song at his Davos restaurant around 1963 and got an immediate reaction. It was originally entitled “Der Ententanz,” which means The Duck Dance, but became known as “Vogeltanz,” “Chicken Dance,” and also as “Dance Little Bird.”
Many versions of this have become popular, but the song and dance have had the greatest longevity in the United States. The dance is multi-ethnic and popular at weddings as well as Oktoberfests. Some bands will urge festival goers to do the dance almost every hour, and the dance floor can get quite crowded. The best way to participate is just to jump in.
There are many variations, and you’ll have to follow the version that the band plays, but here are the basics:
• Begin in a circle with everybody facing one another.
• When the music starts, shape your hands like the beak of a chicken and open and close them for four counts.
• Fold your arms like the wings of a chicken and act like you’re trying to fly for four counts.
• Place your arms and hands like the tail feathers of a chicken and wiggle down for four counts.
• Clap four times.
• Repeat this process four times.
• After the fourth time, grab your neighbors’ hands and move in a circle.
• Switch directions on the bandleader’s command.
• Then start the whole process again.