“Afindrafindrao”: the Malagasy version of the English quadrille dance?

Thursday, 15 July 2021
“Afindrafindrao”: the Malagasy version of the English quadrille dance? Photo credit: Fenosoa

Modern Malagasy culture can be described as a blend of various cultures. If we look back at Madagascar’s settlement history, from the “Vazimba” era – told as the first inhabitants of the island who are of mixed Indonesian and African origins – to its current population, Madagascar’s cultural identity has evolved over the centuries.

In the Malagasy culture, dance and music have always played an important role in expressing emotions and thoughts. With no music and dance, traditional ceremonies and festivities would be bland. During wedding ceremonies and other traditional such as the “famadihana” or exhumation and circumcision, dance and music bring Malagasy people together.

Traditional Malagasy music and dance rooted in the royal era. In the late 16th century, the “Valiha” appeared as the first and most popular Malagasy instrument. Later came the piano and the guitar.At the same time, traditional dances such as the “Afindrafindrao” emerged too.

The derivative of the trendy European quadrille dance of the 19th-century

While the Afindrafindrao historically originated in the central highlands, it is a famous dance across all the regions of Madagascar. It is said to come from the traditional Betsimisaraka dance called “basesa”, performed on valiha with guitar accompaniment. Other historians reported that the Afindrafindrao was performed by the kings of Imerina. King Radama II who had an outstanding talent for playing musical instruments was told to have initiated the Afindrafindrao. Later it would have been officially established in the Merina court under the reign of Queen Ranavalona III. Since then, the Afindrafindrao has become a custom dance for all Malagasy people and has served as the inescapable opening dance to family and social festivities.

How to dance the Afindrafindrao?

Following a line formation in which men and women are placed alternatively, the Afindrafindrao reminds us of the “English quadrille dance” in the 19th century which became popular among the noble class – kings and queens – in the capital.

The quadrille is a fashionable dance featuring four or five couples in a square setting, well-known as contredanses. It is a two-person dance showcasing predefined and repetitive dance steps. The Afindrafindrao has quite similar dance figures to contredanses andis generally executed by mixed couples of men and women. At any rate, dancing the Afindrafindrao is quite easy to learn, even for foreigners.

In the 21st century, musicians have attempted to bring a touch of modernity to the song. So did contemporary dancers by adding new steps to the traditional choreography. However, the traditional and authentic version of the Afindrafindrao remains deeply rooted in the Malagasy culture. Nothing better than the original!

The full PDF version of the magazine is available for free download (here).

Sources: “Gitara Gasy: Guitar Music of Madagascar”, Philip Lewis, 2017 / “Dance Africa: Groupe Bakomanga”, Fredara Mareva Hadley, Ph.D., 2014 / Britannica.

Read 893 times Last modified on Thursday, 15 July 2021 05:29
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