Chain Dances – One Of The Oldest Traditions Of The Faroe Islands

The concept of chain dance represents one of the oldest traditions of the Faroe Islands and is deeply rooted within the Faroese folklore. The traditional Faroese dance is a form of circle dance that can trace its roots back to the Middle Ages and is similar to those which were once performed in Scandinavia proper, where some of these types of folk dance were most notably documented in Denmark and Sweden (there were, of course, other similar types of dances which could have been found across other European states throughout the medieval period as well).

The traditional Faroese chain dance, as depicted on a postage stamp issued in the Faroe Islands. Image source:

These chain dances are often accompanied by ballads which are known as ‘kvæði’ in the Faroese language and are characterised by a repetition of musical notes. These chants were once though to derive solely from Viking Age oral stories (and in some cases this stands to be true) but most of them were discovered to have actually stemmed from the Icelandic sagas.

Nonetheless, the origin for this Faroese ring dance can actually be mapped to Southern Europe, specifically to present-day southern France and Spain. Along with the passing of time though, the folk dances of this sort were gradually banned in these countries (most likely at the will of the church).

So it is that this ring dance tradition has been carefully preserved in the Faroes well into contemporary times and, in fact, out of all European countries, it has only managed to survive in this relatively remote and small archipelago situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Norway and Iceland.

Nowadays, there are several noteworthy associations that arrange events for traditional Faroese chain dances both in the Faroe Islands and overseas in Denmark as well. Below you can watch a short documentary on the history of the Faroese chain dances and how they are actually performed from BBC Alba in Scottish with subtitles in English:

Part two of the documentary:

Documentation sources and external links:

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