Chicken Dance and Waffles.

Chicken Dance and Waffles.

Ava Hilger, Staff Writer

The Chicken Dance is a popular dance that was, and still is, a memorable aspect of my childhood—Saturday nights at a roller skating rink being in the middle of the floor trying to dance on four wheels, wedding afterparties with drunk adults and crazy kids running around, and even doing the chicken dance as a brain break in elementary school. Yet, do you ever wonder where this dance came from or why it has been such a massive part of our lives? From being established in Germany to becoming a tradition and winning the hearts of millions worldwide, the Chicken Dance is something we have all cherished for decades. 

Dating back to 1955, the Chicken Dance has quite a fascinating history. According to, the melody of the Chicken Dance was initially written by a Swiss Accordion player, Werner Thomas. Thomas’s idea of writing this tune sparked from his cherished hobby of watching ducks swim in ponds. It wasn’t until 1963 that Thomas played this song to the public for the first time at the Davos ski resort in Germany. The skiers naturally wanted to get up and dance to this catchy melody. After this life-changing experience, Werner Thomas would end up naming this song “Duck Dance,” or in German, they would call it “der Ententanz.” Slowly but surely, dance moves started to be incorporated into the song. Many noticed that these dance moves resembled the skiers at the resort and ducks. The arm movements of skiers resembled a bird trying to flap its wings, and the leg movements reminded many of a waddle. Later, many individuals approached this dance with the four specific moves we are all familiar with today.

Both hands lift into the air and open and close them four times, twice on each beat, like a bird’s beak. Next, the pull of hands into the underarms four times, twice on each beat, is similar to a bird flapping its wings. Lastly, the wiggle of the shoulders and sometimes hips while moving downward for two beats parallels a bird moving its tail feathers. Further popularity of this iconic song and dance started in 1971 when a Belgian music publisher, Louis Julien van Rigmenant, attended this ski resort and took an interest in the Duck Dance. Louis produced this song for the media with a band called Cash & Carry, changing its name to “Tschip, Tschip,” which is “Chip, Chip” in English. This new version had a twist of synthesizing, which modified the original accordion sound into a “womph” like noise. This tune sold over a million copies just in its first year. It took the help of many groups of people to create the iconic Chicken Dance.

Although the past of this dance may be intriguing, the tradition surrounding it is even more fascinating. As stated, the chicken dance was born in the land of Germany. With the creator being from Switzerland, the song also appeared in that nation. This song started as a party tune audible from beer tents all over these two neighboring countries in the 1960s. According to the second remake of the song with a Dutch Electriona band was the version that significantly impacted European music charts in the 1980s. After hearing this song on the top charts, another band from Germany decided to put a twist on it by playing the song during an Oktoberfest celebration in Tusla, Oklahoma, with trumpets and tubas. When this song was performed during the Oktoberfest event, the German band wanted to perform this dance on national live television.

To fit the theme, they wanted to acquire a duck costume. Unfortunately, the only thing that they found was…a chicken costume! This is when the iconic name “The Chicken Dance” emerged. After this occurrence, people’s lives would be changed forever. It became a must for this song and dance to be performed at every Oktoberfest celebration, causing it to become a tradition. Everyone drank, and in conventional German clothing, people would get in a line and perform the four dance moves to the song’s beat. To make it a more enjoyable dance with the people around you, a 5th dance move was included:

  • Finding yourself a partner
  • Locking arms with one another
  • Facing opposite directions
  • Spinning

Partners will switch arms and directions (and sometimes switch partners) halfway through the segment. Additionally, it is common that the song will begin to speed up after this initial part of the dance. This remarkable notion was born in Germany and went as far as becoming a part of their cultural customs.

The Chicken Dance has been an admirable memory of countless childhoods. Over 60 years ago, this dance started as a catchy tune in Deutschland that was loved by young ones and those who liked to party. The hearts of German heritage were then captured by this dance enough to become a form of tradition for Oktoberfest. As most of you are familiar with this performance, its impact has been so influential for people around the globe. Ultimately, I want all of you to embrace your inner child the next time you hear this catchy melody and remember that there is more to this tune that perks up your attention and makes you want to dance like a chicken.