Chic Knits Downloadable Knitting Patterns Chic Knits Downloadable Knitting Patterns Chic Knits Knitting Blog Chic Knits Knitting Tips & Techniques Chic Knits Bonne Marie Burns Free Knitting Patterns
Studio Chic Knit Blog

Monday, September 27, 2004

  Monday Morning Mirth  

Mimi writes: “Was just reading your notes about weddings….what the heck is a chicken dance? I’m from Chicagoland and I’ve never heard of it…”

Because ChicKnits is HOME of all things Groovy about the MIDWEST! (People, regional PRIDE!) I present
(no drumroll necessary, but some snaps might do!):

NOT the Hokey Pokey; not the Bunny HOP!

The Chicken DANCE!


Formation: One large circle centered in the middle of room.

lst sequence — Four snaps(thumb and fingers up in air)
2nd sequence — four flaps(arms go up & down, elbows bent)
3rd sequence — four wiggles(hips and knees bend low)
4th sequence — four claps
–skip around the circle when the music changes to the slower beat, then repeat the steps above when the music changes back to the first sequence.

Now, maybe I’m part of some Low Culture Generation Gap but call me SENTIMENTAL – this dance has been done at almost every wedding I’ve been to, $$$$, no $$$, even on a boat on Lake Michigan where an Irish guy married a Puerto Rican Lady (who’s relatives pinned money all over her dress for the right to dance) and everybody CHICKENED!

GRANTED: this is NOT the lovely First Waltz of the Evening between the Newly Marrieds, but hon, after a couple of POPS! you are flappin’ your wings!

Care to DANCE! What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at a wedding?


the SWISS are the authors of this Party Phenom

da Music: hit this and don’t blame me if it stays with you all day!

How widespread is this flap? Kids – there’s even a Chicken Dance ELMO!~

49 responses to “Monday, September 27, 2004”

  1. heather says:

    aaaahhh – bonne marie, i’m going to be singing the chicken dance song for the rest of the day now! as a fellow midwestern gal (originally from the suburbs of detroit), the chicken dance was as much a part of my upbringing as pop (vernors, please), boblo island, and choosing a side in the vital u of m vs. msu debate.
    that said, after almost 8 years on the east coast i have yet to see the chicken dance come up here…

  2. ingridh says:

    I’m glad to see it has european origins because I used to danse something very similar on rainy days in my french primary (I attended for a yr)…that was ack ack 23 yrs ago…

  3. Anne says:

    Being from Southern Indiana and all, I’m intimately acquainted with the Chicken Dance. I even went to one wedding where it was performed by a polka band. Lots of German heritage in that part of the state.

  4. Heather says:

    I witnessed the Macarena at a wedding.


    oh horrors!

  5. mimi says:

    Thank you Bonne Marie!

  6. Marnie says:

    Alas, the most disturbing things I’ve seen at a wedding is the father of the bride GRINDING upon the unsuspecting, young friends of the bride.

  7. AnnDS says:

    The Ohio version begins with four “talking beak”-like movements (like your hand is a puppet talking), then on to the other steps.

    I was able to omit “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll” and “Celebration” from my wedding reception playlist, but not the Chicken Dance!

  8. Marlena says:

    I saw my first chicken dance at a wedding about a year ago, in Revere, Massachusetts. Granted, I haven’t been to many weddings, but I really thought I was witnessing some bizarre, American-Italian ceremony. Turned out though, when I tried to share what I’d seen with everyone, they’d all already heard of it. Go figure.

    My four-year-old nephew GOT DOWN to the chicken dance. :)

  9. fillyjonk says:

    Well, it’s a phenom that’s not reached to Oklahoma, as far as I can tell. One of my fellow-congregants was tremendously amused to think that the chicken dance (which she knew as a dance to teach small children) was performed at weddings.

    I told her: There practically isn’t an Illinois wedding without it! (I used to live in Illinois and I don’t rememebr going to a wedding-with-reception that didn’t have the obligatory chicken dance).

  10. brenda in toronto says:

    Weirdest thing I’ve seen at a wedding: the groom and his pals going nuts to the theme from ‘Hawaii 5-0’, pretending they’re surfing. The catch – one of the guys is the surfboard! Oh well, the tuxes were rentals! (And the guys are rugby players…hmmm)

  11. Jenna says:

    Although I’m certainly familiar with the chicken dance, I’ve never seen it performed at weddings. I was, however, quite disturbed at the first non-Jewish wedding I went to. In my mind, nothing makes a wedding like a good HORA! It just didn’t seem the same without it…

    The most messed up thing I’ve seen at a wedding was a young woman smack a baby in the head so she could catch the bouquet.

  12. Shana says:

    I’m from Eastern North Carolina and in my family, we do the chicken dance at weddings too. We also do the Electric Slide and the Macarena. My family likes any excuse to dance and party ;)

  13. Michelle says:

    The most disturbing thing I’ve seen at a wedding was a bouquet/garter throwing ritual that started pretty normally but went drastically wrong when a 7-year-old girl got the bouquet and a middle-aged man got the garter. A tasteful DJ would have averted what comes next. THe little girl had no idea what she’d gotten herself into, and the man had no interest in putting the garter on her. But the oblivious DJ bullied them into doing it anyway.

    I’m predicting years of therapy for that little girl…

    And the Chicken Dance is alive and well in my native upstate New York by the way…but I banned it from the DJ’s playlist! I guess that means my marriage is invalid in Chicago! :)

  14. Heidi says:

    I’m half Indiana-an myself so the Chicken Dance is second nature to me too.

    At my little brother’s wedding, my Indiana grandparents told my sister (the middle child) that since she had a younger sibling marry before she did, she would have to dance in a barrel.

    I have never heard of that tradition before. Lucky for her nobody could find a barrel for her to dance in.

  15. mimsical says:

    We used to do the chicken dance with the aforementioned quacking gestures every Cinco de Mayo. I grew up just outside of Los Angeles, so I guess it’s pervasive, but with different variations.


  16. Becky says:

    I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the weddings I’ve attended are too darn STUFFY. I’ve never once seen the Chicken Dance.

    We need more Chicken Dance.

    I have seen, however, a Duck Dance over here. It consists of folding up one’s arms in the manner of duck wings, and then wiggling one’s hynie in the style of a duck shaking its back feathers while energetically bending one’s knees up and down. And there is even a song (in French, of course!) that goes with this dance. And I know of this dance because I saw people doing it at my own wedding reception. Quack quack!

  17. AmyP says:

    To add an international edge to this: the Chicken dance is an absolute MUST at all childrens parties over in the UK. And that includes the adults.
    We are all indocrinated from a very early age as part of the birthday proceedings. That and ‘Agado’ (please don’t ask – it’s too painful)

  18. Aven says:

    I’m with Becky — as far as I know, the chicken dance is the same as “Le dance des canards” which was taught to me in grade school here in Ontario; it has many of the same motions, with butt wiggling and beak hand motions integral to it. The words start: “C’est le dance des canards” but I can never remember the rest, except the “quack quack quack quack” to which the butt wiggling is done.

    I think it may sometimes be performed at weddings, but I remember it more as a school thing.

  19. Deanna says:

    Back in the day, we used to do the Alligator to BTO’s “Takin’ Care of Business”. I’m from Michigan’s UP, and I don’t know were this “Dance” came from or how old it is.

    Clap 4x, slap thighs 4x, drop to knees and slap floor 4x, drop to stomach and slap floor 4x, roll onto side and punch upper leg and arm into the air 4x, roll onto back and punch both arms and legs in air 4x, and then work your way back to standing from other side, belly, knees, etc. Very lovely in a dress…

    Enjoy your blog and patterns.

  20. Jackie says:

    I haven’t seen the chicken dance all that much (thank god!) but I have to say, that little dancing chicken did crack me up. I guess I’m glad I don’t go to all that many weddings. I’ll keep my eye out for it at the next bar mitzvah in November.

  21. Bonne Marie says:

    The DUCK DANCE! I believe the Chicken Dance WAS originally the Duck Dance…

    Fowl is as fowl….

  22. lena says:

    humm, i grew up on the arizona/mexico border and we did the chicken dance to a particular mexican music at all quincenreras (15th birthday parties)

  23. rachelkates says:

    I went to a wedding outside of Chicago on Friday night and, alas, although the DJ played a polka, Earth Wind & Fire’s Shining Star (No Matter Who You Are), and that dang Friends in Low Places tune, we were never graced with the music for the chicken dance. I’m bummed! Can the couple truly call themselves married?

  24. Sylvia says:

    It’s a German import, and I’ve been trying to remember the lyrics… Of course we did it at our wedding!

  25. the moon says:

    Chiming in as a native Southern-Hoosier… As someone outlined below, we did not “snap” the first sequence, but started with the hand-quacking/talking beak motion. The Chicken Dance was, of course, done at my wedding, and all my in-laws from the Philippines had a new tradition to take back home to the family there. Back home in my very German part of the state, this is performed not just at weddings, but any big celebration, including all my high school pep rallies, outdoor festivals, and (of course) Oktoberfests.

    Also traditional in the Southern Indiana wedding is some circle-type dance to Rocky Top. I wasn’t familiar with this until no less than 10 people at our reception asked me when we were going to “Dance Rocky Top”.

  26. Who needs a wedding…they chicken dance during Badger’s games here in Madison, Wi.

    My favorite wedding song…

    SHOUT! Lift your hands up and SHOUT!

    A little blues brothers goes a long way…or was that Animal House???

  27. Amanda says:

    I know this is going to be hard for some to understand–but I had the chicken dance banned from my (Chicagoland) wedding…The DJ conviently forgot to bring the song. It all has to do with that Chicken Dance Elmo….

  28. Vicki says:

    The hokey-pokey, chicken dance, macarena, and YMCA are all pretty much on the playlist for any Wisconsin wedding I’ve attended… To be honest, those are usually the “dances” that are the most fun — guests of all ages can be goofy together and no one needs a partner. Let loose and flap those wings!

  29. cherylc says:

    Regarding Chicken Dance Elmo? My FIL sent one to my daughter, and while it is super cute to see her doing the chicken dance with it, it is a very heavy toy, and I once tripped on it while carrying her and we both fell on the floor (no serious injuries). I felt like I’d stubbed my toe on a brick.

    I’ve seen the Macarena done, with no irony, at weddings.

  30. Maureen says:

    At my wedding, in Connecticut, we did “The Alley Cat” in place of the Chicken Dance. My sis and I learned it as kids n the 60s.

    I wasn’t in attendance but the most outrageous dance related thing that I think has ever happened at a wedding was when my brother-in-law had his prosthetic leg fall off while doing a Greek line dance. Many of the guests may have not known that he had a prosthesis – how surprised were they to find out?!?

  31. Deborah says:

    Here in Quebec, the dance is called “La danse des canards” (as Aven said). But it’s a kids’ party dance. I actually learnt in school, when we had the visit of some a popular TV show characters.

    The begging French words go:
    C’est la danse des canards (It’s the dance of the ducks)
    qui, en sortant de la mare, (which, when coming out of the pond)
    se secouent le bas des reins (wiggle their butt)
    et font “Coin-coin” (and go quack-quack)

    Here is the rest of them:

  32. Jacqueline says:

    In the west of Scotland all these forms of dance are present at weddings:

    2. Ally Cat
    3.Chicken Dance (also known as the Birdie Song)
    4. Timewarp

    At twentyfirsts see above with the addition of ‘Take the Highroad’ by Runrigg. I hate Runrigg.

  33. Deborah says:

    I just found the music of the French song (that you can download on your cell phone as a ring tone – ewww!)

    It’s pretty similar to the English version…

  34. Rose says:

    Now I know why my Swiss husband is so weird.

  35. pixie says:

    I have never in my life been to a wedding with the chiken dance.. my dads a wedding photog and I have been to a lot lol.. mostly in VA and GA.. lol

  36. jae says:

    Ah, yes, the chicken dance. Not native to IL, no, it’s prevailent here in Sacramento, CA too. Instead of snaps we do beak movements, but everything else is the same. And now I’m humming the song. Drat!

    The most bizarre thing I’ve seen at a wedding is a tossup between two different ceremonies in which I was the maid of honor:

    1) The (very insecure) girlfriend of one of the groomsmen came dressed in slinky beaded black ballgown and four inch heels… to an outdoor evening summer wedding. During the bouquet toss, she was the only one who didn’t remove her shoes and literally FOUGHT for the bouquet on her jump. I got a clawed cheek and one of the bridesmaids went to the hospital the next day for what turned out to be a broken toe.

    2) The parents of the bride HATED the groom. I don’t mean hate like “I just don’t like him…” I mean hate like neither of them smiled the entire day and in the wedding picture mom is giving the dirtiest look to him. And the priest, while at the rehearsal was nicely dressed in a suit and tie, came to the wedding in an 1850’s-era outfit, complete with little bow at the neck and floppy black hat. Not a good look.

  37. Jen says:

    As a native Michigander, the Chicken Dance is alive and well. At one point in time, my parents had a 45 MINUTE tape of that song. They would play it at the annual party they had called “The Polish Disco”. This was way back in the 70’s, before life became PC. Folks would show up in tacky clothing, and one guy one year even brought his beer in his bowling bag.

    And at the last wedding I was at, my friend and I had to TEACH people how to do the Chicken Dance. What has the world come to….

  38. Elizabeth says:

    Yes, they danced the Chicken Dance at my daughter’s wedding in August. Good dance to get things hopping!:) The weirdest thing I have ever heard about a wedding was the one Angela and Seth went to this past Saturday night. The bride lined the isle with every dried flower arrangement that had been given to her by her past boyfriends. Reason: they all led me to my husband. Ok, now I’ve heard it all! :)

  39. Tasha says:

    We didn’t dance at my wedding (didn’t feel like it). But I used to teach country-western line dance during the “Achy Breaky Heart” heyday, and I’d get people coming into my classes on a wednesday, askingme to teach them the dance. I’d watch them try to follow along with a much smipler dance (and invariably fail), and tell them, “Well, I can try, but you’ll probably end up walking backwards in a circle…”

    Fad dances. Not for the faint-of-heart or the oblivious-to-rhythm.

  40. Anne says:

    I too have seen surfboard groomsmen at weddings. At my brother’s the surfing was to the song ‘Wipeout’ and at the end all the groomsmen (and groom for that matter) fell onto the floor and kicked their legs up in the air.

    Mind you, the bar was still open. lol

    The Chicken Dance is a must have at weddings up here in New York. I’ve been to about 8 and it’s been at everyone I can remember.

  41. Alexia says:

    We have the Chicken dance here in Australia too, although we do the “talking beak” hands for the first four beats like AnnDS does in Ohio. I too have seen the “wipeout” surfing groomsmen and a dance called “The Worm” which involved everyone lying on their back and kicking their legs in the air.

    I banned the Chicken Dance at my 21st and wedding but they did make me do the Macarena and the Nutbush/Madison.

  42. Debi says:

    For those unfamiliar with the Chicken Dance, rent the movie “He Said/She Said” with Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins and check out the chicken dance at Uncle Olaf’s wedding complete with talking beak hands!! FUN!

  43. Nina says:

    The Chicken Dance is familiar here in Finland as well (with the “talking beak” hand movements), but I can’t remember seeing it at a wedding lately.

  44. Stine says:

    Thank you so much for NOT having the chicken dance music playing automatically on your blog today. Its impossible to get out of your head for DAYS & days. One Christmas Meier & Frank had dancing Santas that moved to the chicken dance music right inside their door. You heard it going into the store & when you left. It was HELLACOUS!

  45. Jacqueline says:

    And here I was thinking we Australians were the only crazy ones doing the chicken dance. I am so pleased to find out that I am wrong.

  46. Bliss says:

    As many years as a wedding singer, I can tell stories for hours about the things I have seen. One of the ones that comes to mind immediately is the time I was singing at a VERY formal wedding. The bride requested eleven songs! (My boss continually asked me if I was singing at her wedding or was she getting married at my concert.) Everyone is in proper formal wedding attire…tuxedoes, etc. Then here comes the groom’s father up the aisle with his boutonniere pinned to the front of his blue and white Kentucky wildcats tee-shirt!

    We ALWAYS do the chicken dance around these parts. But one of the sweetest things I have seen? I sang at a wedding and reception a few years ago. After the traditional bride/groom first dance, I sang PS I Love You, as the bride’s grandparents (who were sweethearts during the war, celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary that same day) danced. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

  47. Bridget says:

    In St. Louis, our version was the Duck Dance, complete with QUACKS. I highly suggest adding CLUCKS to any performance of the Chicken Dance. Oddly, I’m in Kansas City now and the neither the Chicken Dance nor the Duck Dance is seen at wedding receptions. It’s very sad.

  48. melissa says:

    After reading your blog yetserday, I picked up my daughter from day care last night, where she was nursing a Chicken Dance injury. Yes, she had been doing the Chicken Dance, had lost her balance and fell into a cupboard.

    Morals –
    1) There is now a Chicken Dance meme in my life. Please tell me how to get rid of it.
    2) The Chicken Dance is dangerous. (see point 1)

  49. Gloria says:

    Each summer we visit our daughter and family in Maine and go to our grandson’s ice hockey games. A year or so ago, in between switching players they would play the “Chicken Dance”. I happened to look down at my grandson, who plays goalie and yes, he was doing the Chicken Dance in full goalie attire and on ice skates. Each time they played it….he danced. He is still dancing on skates (when his dad, one of the coaches isn’t looking), but to other songs they play. They haven’t played the Chicken Dance in a while. :)

©Bonne Marie Burns
All Rights Reserved
Unauthorized reproduction in any form prohibited.

Site Design: BigBrain Multimedia/Bonne Marie Burns

"ChicKnits" and "Chic Knits" are the ®Registered Trademarks of Bonne Marie Burns of Portland OR