They Dance Alone

Album: Nothing Like the Sun (1987)


  • Sting wrote this after he saw a brief news story about women dancing in the streets of Chile torn apart by the Pinochet regime. The women were dancing in the streets with pictures of their husbands, fathers, brothers or sons pinned to their clothes or they were holding the pictures and dancing with them.
  • Branford Marsalis played the sax.
  • This was released as a single along with a Spanish version of the song, "Ellas Danzan Solas." It didn't chart.
  • Jackson Browne said in a 2008 issue of Rolling Stone: "'They Dance Alone' is one of my favorite examples of how to speak to people. He magnified an appropriated image and passed it on to the world."
  • Sting: "I never tackle political issues head-on. With something like 'They Dance Alone,' and the Pinochet regime, the metaphor was of the poor women dancing alone in front of government buildings; you could understand that metaphor whether or not you knew the political issues. I've never set out to write a song that is about, for example, the environment. Songwriting is much more veiled than that. The meaning reveals itself as you go into it. A song should be plastic enough for you to find different meanings there. That's what all art does, all poetry, if you can call it that."
  • Sting visited Chile with the Police in the '70s at the height of the Pinochet regime and caused somewhat of a ruckus. He told the Independent On Sunday in 1994: "I asked Amnesty International what they thought and their advice was that I should go, because rock'n'roll means freedom in these countries. So we went out there and it was pretty painful. There were troops and tanks on every street. At the press conference they'd put a little British flag and Chilean flag on the table. I picked up the British flag and threw it in the bin. They said, 'What did you do that for' and I said, 'In our country that flag is the symbol of the British fascist party.' There was uproar. They called us animals. They weren't very nice to us, the right-wing press in Chile."
  • Not surprisingly, this song was banned in Chile.
  • Sting returned to Chile during a 1986 tour on behalf of Amnesty International, along with Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour, and Tracy Chapman, where he was honored under the new government. "[They] gave me a medal and a citation for my efforts, and the mothers of the disappeared gave me a hug. I'd lost my own mother but had inherited many more," he recalled in Lyrics By Sting.

    Sting's mother was terminally ill with cancer while he was writing this album. She died before it was released.

Comments: 14

  • Monik from Usa

    For the ones that argue that the song is not about Chile.
  • Esskayess from EarthI obviously didn't listen closely enough the first time I heard this song. Thought the line was "dancing with the missus."
  • Dewey from Bear, DeI saw Sting perform on the recent Sting/Simon tour in Philly. He performed They Dance Alone for the first time on tour in many years. He left out the whole section regarding Pinochet:
    "Hey Mr. Pinochet
    You've sown a bitter crop
    It's foreign money that supports you
    One day the money's going to stop
    No wages for your torturers
    No budget for your guns"

    The true meaning of the song changes.
  • Marino from Santo Domingo, Dominican RepublicSting, NYC, NY: This song is not about Palestine. No one to my knowledge hace written about this: They Dance Alone was written in regards of the thousands of people that the government of the dictator Pinochet dissapeard in Chile.
  • Sting from Nyc, NyThis song was written by Sting about the genocide of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Many women have lost loved ones: sons, husbands, brothers, fathers...
  • Sting from Nyc, NyThis song was written by Sting about the genocide of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Many women have lost loved ones: sons, husbands, brothers, fathers...
  • Christina from Baltimore, MdThis song is just BEAUTIFUL-another TRUE CLASSIC by my favorite artist-Sting. Cueca Solo paints a very detailed picture of the hardships(and that's an understatement), the women under Pinochet's rulership endured. I just LOVE the Ruben Blades solo in Spanish, the sound of Branford's sax and the lyrics....what more can I say? Sting is A-1.
  • Frank from Cambridge, MaThis is a beautiful song, but I agree with Sting. The song is not the important part - it's the 'event' he was able to magnify. The woman of 70's Chile took a chance that Pinochet would realize that had he ordered his soldiers to stop the protests using violence, the specter of soldiers gunning down women in broad daylight for dancing would have brought more political pressure and publicity than he would risk. And they were right, so they never opposed this form of protest. The drama lies in the image of all these woman using a peaceful symbol of a Dance as a form of protest set against a backdrop of police stations and soldiers who's weapons and tanks were rendered useless. This is a very powerful and dramatic image.
  • Orben from Bronx, NyThe person who spoke the verse in spanish is Ruben Blades.
    -Orben, Bronx, New York
  • Maria from Sacramento, CaAnnabelle, and anyone else who wants to know what the Spanish translates to. It's really just the corus in Spanish. It means (roughly):
    They dance with the missing,
    Dance with the dead,
    Dance with Loves invisible
    With silent anguish
    Dance with their fathers
    with their sons (could be translated children, but because of previous verses, I think sons is more appropriate)
    with their spouses (husbands)
    They (women) dance alone
    (They) dance alone
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrWho was the one that did the spoken part in Spanish? I wonder what the spoken part translates to.
  • Tiffany from Castro Valley, CaSting actually visited Chile as part of the Amnesty tour. I think he may have witnessed La Cuerca Solo. He explains it in the insert to the Nothing Like the Sun album.
  • Tegan from Darwin, Australiamy drama class used this song in a play we performed last year about these women. the situation is so sad and horrible, it's great that someone has written a song explaining the terrible ordeal these women have to go through. everyone cried by the end of our play.
  • Arka from Calcutta, ArWhew.....from Nada Como El Sol...that's Nothing Like The Sun in Spanish. One of the best in the album. Like 'Russians', it's set on the theme of war, and about personal loss at a macrocosm. Mr Marsalis is just so damn haunting.....
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