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In music, the sarabande (It., sarabanda) is a dance in triple metre. The second and third beats of each measure are often tied, giving the dance a distinctive rhythm of crotchets and minims in alternation. The crotchets are said to have corresponded with dragging steps in the dance.

The sarabande is first mentioned in Central America: in 1539, a dance called a zarabanda is mentioned in a poem written in Panamamarker by Fernando Guzmán Mexía. Apparently the dance became popular in the Spanish colonies before moving back across the Atlantic to Spainmarker. While it was banned in Spain in 1583 for its obscenity, it was frequently cited in literature of the period (for instance in works by Cervantes and Lope de Vega).

Later, it became a traditional movement of the suite during the baroque period, usually coming directly after the Courante. The baroque sarabande is commonly a slow triple rather than the much faster Spanish original, consistent with the courtly European interpretations of many Latin dances. This slower, less spirited interpretation of the dance form was codified in the writings of various 18th century musicologists; Johann Gottfried Walther wrote in his Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1723) that the sarabande is "a grave, … somewhat short melody," and Johann Mattheson likewise wrote in Der Vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739) that the sarabande "expresses no passion other than ambition"Johann Sebastian Bach, The French Suites: Embellished version (Kassel: Barenreiter

Sarabande from Handel's D minor Keyboard Suite

The fourth movement Sarabande of George Frideric Handel's Keyboard suite in D minor for solo harpsichord achieved modern popularity when an orchestrated version was used by Stanley Kubrick for his 1975 film Barry Lyndon. Later, Brian De Palma featured the same orchestration as the overture for his 2007 film Redacted. Also, in another direct reference to Barry Lyndon, Michael Winterbottom included this sarabande in A Cock and Bull Story in a new arrangement by Michael Nyman.

It also made an appearance on the 2008 HBO Series John Adams, about the life of the second president of the United States. It appeared in episode 4, when Adams (Paul Giamatti) meets King George III (played by Tom Hollander) while serving as Minister to Great Britain.

The Levi's campaign "Freedom to Move" used a different arrangement of the sarabande to accompany it's titular jeans' surreal commercial. [64660]

The Theme of Handel's Sarabande is a variation of La Folia, one of the oldest remembered European musical themes on record.

Other sarabandes

The sarabande inspired the title of Ingmar Bergman's last film Saraband (2003). Each of Bach's cello suites contains a sarabande, and the film uses the sarabande from his fifth suite, which Bergman also used in Cries and Whispers (1971). The sarabande from the second Bach suite serves as the primary theme in Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly (1961).

The Swedishmarker alternative rock band ALPHA 60 has a song called Sarabande, as does British electrostring group Escala on its debut album.

Yngwie Johann Malmsteen's Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E minor contains a song called Sarabande. It draws influences form the original, fast Spanish sarabande.


  1. Richard Hudson and Meredith Ellis Little, "Sarabande: 1. Early Development to c1640", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music and Musicians, 2001).
  2. Ingmar Bergman Saraband - Sources of inspiration

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