Sardana, the national dance of Catalonia

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People dancing sardanes in front of the cathedral of Barcelona.
The Sardana is a traditional dance from Catalonia, Andorra and Roussillon. On Sundays or on public holidays it is quite common to see groups of people of all ages dancing in a circle holding hands. Its popularity has made to be considered by the Catalans as a national dance and a symbol of the unity and identity of this nation. In 2010, the Generalitat de Catalunya has declared the Sardana as festive heritage element of national interest.

The true origin of Sardana is still unclear. There is a theory that says it comes from Ancient Greece, given the similarities between Sardana and the dances of Hellenic culture. It is certainly that in the Late Middle Ages there was already a dance that could be the precursor of the Sardana, the contrapĂ s. The dance reached great popularity in the historic region of EmpordĂ  during the latter part of the 19th century and in the 20th century spread throughout all Catalonia.

The Sardana is danced in groups forming closed circles with a variable number of pairs. The dancers (sardanistes), with their hands joined, execute series of short steps and long steps according to the rhythm of the melody. The short steps are executed with the arms down and the long ones with the arms raised. The music that accompanies the sardanas has its own particular style and is performed by "La Cobla", a band composed of eleven musicians playing twelve instruments. Four of these instruments are typical Catalan, with a very characteristic sound.