The Antequera Fandango is a popular dance form in which six men and six women face each other across a room, each dancing with all the others in turn, and finishing with the partner one started with. In this respect it resembles Scottish or Irish set dancing, but here the similarity ends.
The music is of course pure Andalucian, and the dance was considered to be too erotic at a time when the word of the Catholic Church was sacred in Spain. For this reason it was prohibited by the church in centuries gone by, and has survived only because the tradition was passed down from generation to generation in the more remote and rural areas of Antequera, where it was performed at family gatherings and celebrations.
Today this tradition continues with performances being given at local fiestas and in regional and national festivals.
The origins of this dance form are unknown but it is known to have been in existence in the 16th century, because in 1556, a bishop named Bernardo Manrique prohibited his flock from performing it, on account of its provocative movements. This obviously was the whole purpose of the dance form which allowed both men and women to flirt on the dance floor.
The Antequera forbidden fandango is performed in two parts, with three sets of movements to each part followed by a certain repetition of movement.
The musical instrument was quite basic with a pot or pan being used as a drum to accompany the singing and maintain the rhythm. Arising from the prohibition of the dance by the church, it continued to be performed in rural areas up to the middle of the last century. It was then that the women’s section of the Falange began to take an interest in its authentic rural traditions and conducted research in the farmhouses of the area. The Falange soon lost interest in the dance form, and it was forgotten until one of its former members moved to Antequera.
A small group was formed and slowly they established themselves as a formal dance group with the aim of performing other dance forms typical of the Antequera area as well, such as the Feliciano and the Zapatilla, which were traditional local songs turned into dance forms by the women’s section of the Falange after the Civil War.
It is unfortunate that such a beautiful dance form is not promoted enough throughout the rest of Andalucia as it is one of Antequera’s oldest and most beautiful traditions.