What is the Macarena?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

The "Macarena" song and dance was an incredibly popular phenomenon in the mid-1990s. Created by Seville natives Los Del Rio, the Macarena trend spread like wildfire before quickly falling out of fashion. The song and dance remains an often-referenced piece of pop-culture, mentioned in TV shows, movies, books, and even by a United States presidential candidate.

Woman posing
Woman posing

In the early 1990s, the Spanish band Los Del Rio released the first of many versions of the song, which based its rhythm on the quick-streaming, rhyming lines of its lyrics. The title comes from a neighborhood in Spain, and also is a popular name for girls in the Andalusia area. Initial versions of the song became popular throughout Spain and Latin America, even being used as part of a gubernatorial campaign in Puerto Rico.

In 1996, a version with mostly English lyrics was released as a remix by the band The Bayside Boys, causing the catchy song and its accompanying video to race up the music charts in several countries. By the end of the year, "Macarena" had reached the number one place on the charts in at least nine countries, including Australia, Belgium, and the United States.

Depending on the version, the lyrics change somewhat. Initially, the song told the story of a woman named Macarena who reacts to her boyfriend joining the army by going out on the town. Later versions make the woman considerably more promiscuous, and the American remix changes the lyrics to be from Macarena's point of view. Despite the various versions, the rhythms and tune are remarkably catchy, and quickly led to one of the largest dance crazes in recorded history.

The dance to the song is a variety of hand and hip movements meant to be performed in unison, somewhat akin to a line dance. Each cycle of the dance ends with a 90 degree rotation of the body, and the dance is then repeated. In 1996, many believe a world record for group dancing was set, when a crowd of 50,000 people danced the Macarena in Yankee Stadium in New York. The dance became a staple at weddings, high-school dances, and sporting events.

To perform the dance, there are eight basic steps to learn. The dance is performed in time with the chorus portion of the song, and is as follows:

  1. Put Right hand out straight, palm down. Repeat with left hand.
  2. Turn right palm up, repeat on left side.
  3. Place right hand on left shoulder or arm, repeat with left hand on right.
  4. Put right hand behind right ear, follow with left hand behind left ear.
  5. Move right hand to left hip, then left hand to right hip.
  6. Move right hand to right hip, repeat on left side.
  7. Do three hip rolls, should be in rhythm with the line "Hey, Macarena!"
  8. Either jump or pivot 90 degrees to the left and repeat whole sequence.

In popular culture, the Macarena has spawned dozens of references throughout most media areas. In 1996, at the height of the dance craze, United States Vice-president Al Gore performed the "Al Gore version" during the Democratic National Convention, which consisted of him standing completely still while the music played, then asking the audience if they'd like to see it again.

Despite the song's Spanish origin, the dance craze is often recognized as a distinctly American piece of culture. Photographs exist of American armed forces teaching the dance to Iraqi soldiers. Despite the song being a one-hit wonder for Los Del Rio, it created an indelible impact on world culture.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


The Macarena is supposed to be about a prostitute and the dance shows her "advertising" her body parts. It is truly disgusting.

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