Calinda

Calinda is martial art, as well as kind of folk music and dance in the Caribbean which arose in the 1720s. Calinda is the French spelling, and the Spanish equivalent is calenda; it is a kind of stick-fighting dance tradition commonly seen practiced during Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.

Though it is more commonly practiced as a dance because of the violent outcome of stick fighting, it’s roots are still that of a martial art originating from Africa, and stick fights still occur in the remoter parts of Trinidad.

Kalenda is one name assigned to an Afro-Caribbean form of stick fighting as practiced in Haiti and entering the United States through the port city of New Orleans. It is also practiced in other parts of the Caribbean, such as Martinique.

The well-known Cajun song “Allons dancer Colinda” is about a Cajun boy asking a girl named Colinda to do a risqué dance with him; probably derived from the Calinda dance which was reported to have been performed in New Orleans by Afro-Caribbean slaves brought to Louisiana.

From the exterior world of Voodoo comes the Calenda (Spanish) or Calinda (French) which is from the West Indies (Coast of Guinea and the Kingdom of Arda) sometime in the 1700’s, but was probably from the Congo River in Africa due to the Slave trade of the time. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit several of the islands (11/11/1493). In 1496 the first permanent European settlement was made by the Spanish on Hispaniola. By the middle 1600s the English, French, and Dutch had established settlements in the area.

Large numbers of Africans were imported to to this area to provide slave labor for the sugarcane plantations that developed there in the 1600s. Slave trade through the West Indies was in full scale by the 1700’s and the United States would enter the scene in the late 18th century. The U.S. acquired Louisiana in 1803 from the French and a field at Congo Square would be setup for dancing by the slaves from about 1805 to 1880. This was to make the slaves happier and a happy slave would be much more productive as well as preventing any Voudon (Voodoo) dances from taking place.

The Calenda is said to have arrived in the USA to Louisiana from San Domingo and the Antilles by these slaves. The original dances first done in Congo Square were Jigs, Fandango’s and the Virginia Breakdown bfore 1837 says Henry Kmen of Tulane University. However later they would be doing other dances, among them were the Chica, Bamboula and Calenda, and eventually became the main ones done. The Calenda music was a grossly personal satirical ballad, all danced to their traditional African drums.

The Calinda was a dance of multitude, a sort of vehement cotillion. Men and women would dance with Lascivious Gestures, the thighs together, striking them together in a rhythm patting, and would feature pelvic thrust’s and hip gyrations. They then would separate with a pirouette, only to begin advancing towards each other all over again, doing the same movements with lascivious gestures. These dancers would sometimes last for hours and upon tiring, another would take their place.

Throughout the dance the dancers would lock arms and make several revolutions, slapping their thighs and “kissing each other.” The Calenda had numerous attempts of mock and ridicule and had actual attempts at banning the dance from society, and finally un-successfully banning the dance in 1843, however the Calenda lasted well into the late 19th century, despite the protests.