France, the country of the Enlightenment, is not internationally recognised just by its Eiffel Tower but by its culture and folk dances. French people are very passionate about their culture and art, and several different French folk dances are famous worldwide. As folk dances reflect the culture and life of a particular region or country, many folk dances in France depend on distinct regions of France. Some examples of French folk dances overall France include Forlane, Menuet, Musette, and Sarabande. Bourree and Belle Dance are one of the most popular french folk dances. These two dances are often performed in the country and cultural centres for visitors to France. The Baroque dance originated between 1600 to 1750. While dancing, the performers wear colourful dresses.
2 Most Iconic French Folk dances
Though France is famous for giving birth to ballet dance and fusing the elements of music, dance, and plot to design it into a dramatic whole, it has become one of France’s most known dances outside its border. Though most folk French dances may not be particularly well-known outside the country, two of them have managed to cross borders, gain worldwide fame, and immediately bring an idea of a certain French lifestyle.
- The French Cancan
It isn’t easy to think of a dance style more symbolic and more closely associated with a venue and a specific time of history. The French Cancan stole the show in the late 20th century when the famous French painter Henri de Toulouse Lautrec painted posters for the Moulin Rouge and its most famous dancers.
- The valse musette
The valse musette is as famous as the French cancan. The most important thing to know about valse musette is that it is danced to the sound of the accordion to understand just how iconic this French folk dance is. Born in the 1880s around the time of the Belle Époque, this might still be seen danced nowadays in village halls on the 14th of July for Bastille Day: It is just as traditional as watching the military parade on the Champs-Élysées or listening to anthems such as “La Marseillaise” and “Le chant des partisans”.
For a stunning valse musette performance, check out this YouTube video
Other Famous French Folk Dances
France is known for its rich cultural heritage, including a diverse range of folk dances that are popular to this day. In addition to the well-known French dances such as the Can-Can, there are several other folk dances that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some of the other famous French folk dances are:
- The farandole
Farandole is an open-chain community dance that has been in France for many centuries, most notably in the southeast region of Provence. The local people say that the farandole is the oldest traditional folk dance in the country. It is also one of the easiest folk dances. Children in the school cultural events even enjoy the farandole.
To get a taste of the lively and rhythmic farandole, check out this YouTube video:
- The bourrée auvergnate
The bourree auvergnate, as the name can be guessed as a French dance, is originally from the central region of Auvergne. People of the country perform this dance on special occasions nowadays; it first appeared and gained popularity in the 16th century, spreading to other countries in Western Europe, including Great Britain. Check out this YouTube video to experience the lively and energetic bourrée:
- The maraîchine
The maraîchine folk dance of France is worth mentioning in our list though it maybe a little less famous than the first two folkloric dances we have listed. The maraîchine is another renowned folk dance traditionally performed in a line or a circle. This type of dance comes from two regions northwest of France, Poitou and Bretagne (or Britanny in English). The latter is well-known for its many dances of Celtic inspiration. Here’s a beautiful rendition of the maraîchine on YouTube:
- The Java Dance
Java is a type of dance that originated in France in the early 1900s. It is believed to have developed from the waltz. Java became popular in French bal-musette between 1910 and 1960, as people wanted a new type of waltz that was faster, easier, more sensual, and didn’t require large dance halls. The dance involves dancing close to one’s partner, taking small steps to move forward, and is performed as a quick waltz.
Want to see a java dance performance? This video is a great place to start.
- The Apache dance
The Apache dance is a dramatic and aggressive French dance that originated in the early 1900s and was influenced by the street culture of Paris. It depicts a violent relationship between a man and a woman, often involving simulated acts of violence like slaps, punches, and kicks. The dance gained popularity in Parisian nightclubs and was featured in French films. To see the apache dance performance in action, check out this video:
- The Menuet
The menuet is a graceful and elegant dance that originated in the 17th century. It is characterized by its slow and stately tempo, and the dancers move with small steps and refined gestures. The menuet was often danced at formal events and was considered a symbol of French aristocracy. To see an example of the graceful and elegant menuet, check out this YouTube video:
- The Gavotte
The gavotte is a dance that originated in the Brittany region of France. It is a lively dance that is characterized by its quick and light footwork. The gavotte is often accompanied by a violin or a harpsichord, and it was once a popular dance at French royal courts. Watch this YouTube video to see a gavotte in action and experience its quick and light footwork:
- The Chaconne
The chaconne is a dance that originated in Spain but was later adopted by the French. It is a slow and stately dance that is characterized by its repetitive rhythm. The chaconne was often danced at formal events and was considered a symbol of French aristocracy. Check out this YouTube video:
- The Sarabande
The sarabande is a slow and stately dance that originated in Spain but was later adopted by the French. It is characterized by its simple and elegant movements and is often danced in pairs. The sarabande was once a popular dance at French royal courts. This YouTube video showcases the simple and elegant movements of the sarabande:
- The Allemande
The allemande is a lively dance that was originally developed in Germany but later became popular in France. It is characterized by its quick and intricate footwork, and was often performed at formal events, symbolizing the elegance and refinement of the French aristocracy. For an example of the quick and intricate footwork of the allemande, check out this YouTube video:
- The Gigue
The gigue is a lively dance that originated in England but was later adopted by the French. It is characterized by its fast and complex footwork and is often danced in pairs. The gigue was once a popular dance at French royal courts. Check out this YouTube video to see the lively and complex footwork of the gigue in action:
- The Rigaudon
The rigaudon is a lively dance that originated in the Provence region of France. It is characterized by its fast and energetic footwork and is often accompanied by a tambourin, a traditional French drum. The rigaudon was once a popular dance at French royal courts. Here’s a YouTube video showcasing the energetic and rhythmic movements of the rigaudon: