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 Dancing Mania

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Dancing Mania   Mon 25 Jun 2018, 10:38

On 24 June 1374, one of the biggest and most well-known outbreaks of dancing mania began in Aachen, from where it spread to Cologne, Flanders, Franconia, Hainaut, Metz, Strasbourg, Tongeren, Utrecht, and then to Italy and Luxembourg, although exactly how the mania "spread" is not clear. Because this outbreak of dancing mania began on the feast of St John the Baptist (24 June) the phenomena is sometimes referred to as St. John’s Dance, but is also called the dancing plague, St Vitus' Dance (after the patron saint of dancers), or choreomania. Dancing mania occurred primarily in mainland Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries although the earliest documented outbreak occurred in the 7th century. The phenomena stopped abruptly in the mid 17th century. Typically an outbreak of dancing mania involved groups of people, of both sexes, young and old alike, spontaneously dancing in an erratic manner, sometimes thousands at a time and often without stopping for several days, until they eventually collapsed from exhaustion. Contemporary physicians generally ruled out astrological and supernatural causes, and instead considered the phenomena to be a "natural disease" caused by "hot blood", although they recognised that it seemed to spread like many familiar air- or water-borne diseases.

Another particularly large and well-recorded outbreak occurred in July 1518 in Strasbourg, where a woman named Frau Troffea began dancing in the street, and within four days she had been joined by 33 others. As the dancing plague worsened the city authorities, on the advice of several physicians, encouraged continuous day-and-night dancing, presumably in the hope that this might cause the mania to burn itself out without spreading further afield. The city council opened two guildhalls and a grain market where they constructed a wooden stage, and they paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving - which may of course have back-fired by encouraging yet more people to join in. At its height this outbreak afflicted about 400 persons and continued for about a month before finally dying down, literally so as a number of the dancers were recorded to have suffered heart attacks or strokes, and died.


Detail from "Dancing at Molenbeek" by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, after a 1564 drawing by his father depicting "dancing mania on a pilgrimage to the church of Sint-Jans at Molenbeek".

Numerous hypotheses have been proposed for the causes of dancing mania but with no consensus. Was it a purely a psychological phenomena or did it actually have a physical cause? One of the most prominent theories is that victims suffered from ergot poisoning. Ergot is a fungus, principally of rye but it also attacks other grain plants, which becomes prevalent during warm and wet conditions. The active poison in ergot is related to LSD and if ingested, by eating contaminated grain, it causes painful seizures and convulsions; an itching, burning sensation in the hands and feet sometimes even leading to gangrene (hence it was known as St Anthony's fire); headaches, mania and psychosis, Other theories suggest that the symptoms were similar to encephalitis, epilepsy or typhus, but as with ergotism those conditions cannot account for all the recorded behaviours.

Or was the dancing mania mass hysteria and the result of stress and tension caused by outbreaks of bubonic plague, crop failures and floods, or the stresses and starvation caused by the continent's incessant wars? Were people simply dancing into a state of delerium or ecstacy simply to relieve themselves of the worries and poverty of the day? Another popular theory is that the outbreaks were all staged by banned religious cults (perhaps successors of ancient Greek and Roman cults) who could  perform their ritual dances under the guise of uncontrollable dancing mania. One might add to this speculation the notion that such cults could gain strength in times of severe stress.

Thoughts anyone?


Last edited by Meles meles on Tue 26 Jun 2018, 08:29; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : ergot likes warm and wet not cold and wet)
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Mon 25 Jun 2018, 13:20


Deleted - inappropriate and non-historical. Apologies to originator of an interesting thread.


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Mon 25 Jun 2018, 14:28

At least those geriatric cygnets (whose photo you inexplicably removed - although now I see the old ducks are back again) are wearing tutus. My mother, when well into her 50's, was part of an amateur, high-steppin', chorus-line dance group, who often performed in nothing more than black leotards, fishnet tights and top hats! But you are right that dance - like yoga - gives a good boost of endorphins, as well as imparting mental well-being and promoting physical dexterity. And even when mum was too old for the high kicks, due to knee problems and diabetes, she still thoroughly enjoyed playing the piano for the mature ladies' keep fit sessions.

However although the dance 'buzz' may be a factor in these medieval dance manias, I feel there must be something more. Contemporary accounts report that the movements of the afflicted were usually uncoordinated and more like twitching and spasms than controlled dance steps, and that in their movements they could often injure themselves. Indeed that may well be why the accepted medical advice of the time was to bring in a group of musicians, to try and impart some rhythm and order to the 'dance'.

There was also a very similar phenomena largely restricted to Italy, tarantism, in which the victims were said to have been poisoned by a tarantula or scorpion (although actually the venom of European spiders and scorpions is usually incapable of causing anything more than moderate discomfort). Its earliest known outbreak was in the 13th century and the only prescribed "antidote" was to dance to particularly vigorous music supposedly to separate the venom from the blood. It is recorded that people, in the midst of their usual daily activities, would suddenly begin to dance supposedly affected by a perceived bite or sting, whereupon they were then joined by others who believed the venom from their own old bites was reactivated by the heat or the music. Dancers would perform a "tarantella" which would eventually "cure" the victim, at least temporarily. (The history of the courtly dance called the tarantella and the dance performed by people suffering from tarantism, is actually much longer and more convoluted than this, but they do derive from a common cultural origin).

Again, as with the dancing mania, it is reported that people affected with tarantism engaged in a host of unusual activities beyond the simple uncontrollable urge to dance. Sufferers of tarantism are recorded as tying themselves up with vines and whipping each other, pretending to sword fight, drinking large amounts of wine, and jumping into the sea. Sufferers also typically had symptoms resembling those of dancing mania, such as headaches, trembling, twitching and visions, and as with dancing mania participants apparently did not like the colour black. Again tarantism was common until the 17th century but then ended suddenly (an effect of the Enlightenment, maybe?) but small occasional occurrences were recorded in Italy even as late as the 20th century.


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Mon 25 Jun 2018, 16:06



It sounds almost like a mass outbreak of bipolar disorder - manic phase. There must be a rational explanation. Odd, though, that the outbreaks suddenly stopped. Not sure how the Enlightenment would effect an immediate cure. Surely the lower orders of society (who were the most afflicted) wouldn't have a clue about the Enlightenment thinkers' advanced views on religion? I have visions now of a Monty Python-esque, very sensible philosopher person taking charge and telling the peasants to stop being so silly: "Now stop this at once! You all look utterly ridiculous trying to prance about like Louis XIV  - this is a turnip field, not bloody Versailles! And don't give me any of that 'We're dancing for Saint Vitus'  pre-Enlightenment nonsense - Holy Helper my backside!"

(Edit: as well as being a martyr, Vitus was designated one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Catholic Church. I did not know about the Holy Helpers until this evening, I think "Holy Helper" is a wonderful title.)


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Tue 26 Jun 2018, 08:35

Another well-recorded incident of dancing mania was one in 1237 which affected a large group, almost exclusively of children, who then danced in a line all the way from their home town of Erfurt, to Arnstadt, about 20km distant, "jumping and dancing all the way".

This is similar to traditional telling of the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (also in central Germany), which originated at much the same time (and in its earliest versions with no mention of any rats, just the children). Coincidentally, if one takes the earliest surviving written account of the event, the Lüneburg manuscript (c. 1440–50) at face value, it occurred today in 1284:

anno 1284 am dage johannis et pauli war der 26. juni
dorch einen piper mit allerley farve bekledet gewesen cxxx kinder verledet binnen hameln geboren
to calvarie bi den koppen verloren

In the year 1284 on the day of [Saints] John and Paul on 26th June
130 children born in Hamelin were led away by a piper [clothed] in many colours
to [their] Calvary near the Koppen, [and] lost


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Tue 26 Jun 2018, 09:29

And talking of specific dates, that Brueghel detail is taken from this painting, actually entitiled "St John's dancers at Molenbeeck", and depicts the procession of dancers and musicians on their way to the Church of Sint-Jans ie St John the Baptist at Molenbeeck (near Brussels) during the annual procession on the Feast Day of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (ie June 24th).



That is exactly the same date that the large outbreak of dancing mania occurred in Aachen in 1374 (and just two days before the traditional date for the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. NB in the Hamelin tale the St John is a different saint from John the Baptist, although their respective feast days are just two days apart).

Are these just coincidences? Probably not as the Feast Day of St John does seem to have a particular significance to the manic dancing phenomena, and I'm no longer sure the name 'St John's Dance', derives solely from the major outbreak of dancing that occurred in 1374 (mentioned in the original post).

Even if the June 24 dates are largely coincidence it does seem that dancing mania - and tarantism too - were largely summer phenomena, most usually occurring in May, June, July and August.

But is there not simply an element of religious fevour about it all?

Certainly the victims of dancing epidemics were experiencing altered states of consciousness which is indicated by their extraordinary levels of endurance. In a trance state, they would have been far less conscious of their physical exhaustion and the pain of sore, swollen, and lacerated feet. Onlookers in 1374 also spoke of the afflicted as wild, frenzied, and seeing visions; the dancers yelled out the names of devils, had strange aversions to pointed shoes and the colours red and black, and said they were drowning in "a red sea of blood". Moreover they seem to have danced involuntarily. Witnesses observed that they writhed in pain dancing on bleeding feet for days; they collided with each other and fell over, sometimes breaking limbs; they screamed for help and begged for mercy; but they could not stop.

In Brueghel's 1592 painting the procession of 'celebrants' are not simply dancing - the key figures are clearly afflicted and have distracted, entranced expressions, and they are being assisted - and indeed Brueghel's father (Brueghel the elder) who made the original sketches, recorded that they were 'manic' dancers. But it would seem that he was not depicting a spontaneous outbreak of manic dancing, but rather a regularly organised event whereby the sick, and perhaps specifically the mentally ill, epileptic, and those with parkinson's etc. were brought to the church on the saint's feast day in the hope of a miraculous cure.

In that regard there is another recorded incidence of dancing mania in 1278 when about 200 people were dancing on a bridge over the river Meuse in Germany. Their dancing caused the bridge to collapse and the surviors were brought to a nearby chapel devoted to St Vitus (patron saint of dancers ... and epileptics) whereupon, it was recorded, most were restored to full health.

There is also the report of several incidences in the early 17th century, recorded by the physician Gregor Horst, who noted:

"Several women who annually visit the chapel of St. Vitus in Drefelhausen… dance madly all day and all night until they collapse in ecstasy. In this way they come to themselves again and feel little or nothing until the next May, when they are again… forced around St. Vitus’ Day [15 June] to betake themselves to that place… One of these women is said to have danced every year for the past twenty years, another for a full thirty-two." 
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Tue 26 Jun 2018, 16:27

I used to do keep-fit to music with the U3A though the lady who took the class (a) hurt her leg and didn't feel up to taking it anymore and (b) moved to the south of the county to be nearer her daughter.  When I lived in London I knew some ladies of my age and even older who did belly dancing only without showing their bellies if you know what I mean.  It was quite demure - not like those films where you see lithe young things having money tucked into their baggy pants by gentlemen.  That of course would not be mania - such dancing by demure older ladies would be to get some exercise and by lithe young things, well I suppose it would have a dual purpose of providing a means of exercise and of acquiring some dosh.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Tue 26 Jun 2018, 21:55

I felt my posts about my own experience of the endorphin-enhancing lure of the dance were not quite what MM was hoping for with this thread. Oddly enough, however, something was said at the end of our class today which immediately made me think of this strange topic. One of our "old ducks"  (who actually is a pretty good dancer), as she was saying goodbye to us all, suddenly declared: "You know, for just an hour here I can say sod off to the lot of them!" She did not elaborate on who the "them" in her life, whom she clearly wished would "sod off", might be, nor did she give any clue as to why she obviously had a fair bit of anger and resentment in her that she needed to release in some way. It was interesting though that dancing - even if for just an hour - did give her a measure of relief from these distressing emotions. She obviously found a temporary freedom of sorts in our little studio.

That got me thinking about how the average peasant living in the Middle Ages, besides living with the continual fear of war, famine and plague, must have been battling on a daily basis with emotions they could not - dare not - express. It was impossible to tell the feudal lord (or his lady), the local priest, or anyone else in a position of power - and such people were everywhere - to "sod off". Repression on a huge scale? Was manic, hysterical dancing (and female hysteria is known to be "catching") a bizarre way of letting go, a release of pent-up fury, a form of crazy protest that quickly became an obsessive-compulsive ritual for some women - and men too? The religious aspect - dancing for Saint Vitus - could well have been a convenient excuse, a bit like those angry girls, the anorexic nuns, who fasted themselves to near death "for the love of Christ". I wonder if this out-of-control medieval dancing madness was a sort of communal female "Sod off to the lot of you!"  - taken to manic extremes.


EDIT: Was going to delete all this as being highly improbable psychobabble from me, but have just been reading about anger, repression and dissociative trance states. Perhaps something in my odd theory after all. Gabor Maté, the Canadian doctor and expert on addiction issues, tells us in In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addictions that "the dominant emotions suffusing all addictive behaviour are fear and resentment - an inseparable vaudeville team of unhappiness. One prompts and sets up the other: fear of the way things are and resentment that they are that way..." OCD is an addictive disorder, and this medieval dancing had all the hallmarks of that serious malady. It was most definitely not dancing for the sheer joy of it, and I was foolish in my (now deleted) first post above to suggest it was.


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Tue 26 Jun 2018, 23:13

You hear often about other cultures' use of music to soothe them while they worked at menial or slave jobs (American Africans for example), but you don't hear so much of the music of English workers.  SS writes some songs, but they are not generally of the working classes.  

Are there any examples of this in literature or any writings?  I am reading a book (light historical fiction) about a demesne needing to protect itself from the plague and it used isolation to do this.  But Elizabeth George, while she is talking mostly about and through serfs, doesn't ever say they sang to make their work more pleasant.  (Though she is writing more about after they are working for the lord of the manor and more keeping themselves alive as best they can and we are seeing things from the point of view of a few characters, not a group.)

It sometimes seems to me it must have been a very silent world they lived in, apart from the noise from a few implements in things like blacksmiths' forges and animal noises.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Wed 27 Jun 2018, 17:25

@Caro wrote:
It sometimes seems to me it must have been a very silent world they lived in, apart from the noise from a few implements in things like blacksmiths' forges and animal noises.

Blimey Caro, I thought NZ was a haven of peace and tanquility ... but if what you seem to be suggesting about constant noise/music - and not just passively accepted but expected as normal - then it sounds, perhaps literally, like hell ... at least to me.

I live quite contentedly on my own, with the nearest neighbours some 100m away. I never have the radio on; very, very rarely watch TV; and only sometimes put a music CD on, perhaps when cooking, sewing, or doing some other house-bound chore. So for the most part there is no sound here other than birdsong and (very quietly) the adjacent river; or distantly and only occasionally the sound of children playing; someone perhaps doing some DIY or mowing their lawn; a passing car maybe once or twice an hour; or just the gentle bleating and bells from distant goats. Perhaps that is indeed a bit like in the middle ages ... but whatever, it's fine by me.

But maybe our relative isolation here does make us a little bit more uninhibited. My neighbour does sometimes open her windows and play the piano, forté ... and she does also on occasion sing, out-loud, while working in the garden. Generally her singing isn't as musical as her piano-playing (IMO her Chopin nocturnes and sonatas are very accomplished - her vocal rendering of various ABBA numbers rather less so), and I certainly don't find her occasional al-fresco singing annoying. But then, mea culpa, I also sometimes sing outside ...  and while my dog generally hates my singing, he too sometimes joins in with a howling counter-point, a capella, doggy descant.

@Caro wrote:
You hear often about other cultures' use of music to soothe them while they worked at menial or slave jobs (American Africans for example), but you don't hear so much of the music of English workers.

There is actually a whole genre of traditional English music/song/dance that arose in the 19th century in Lancashire mill towns, specifically with a beat to match the fixed pace of the textile looms, and which also carried over into dance from the measured foot-tapping which was used to count time whilst operating the machines.

I've worked in industries that were sometimes repetetive and noisy. Tuning into the local radio station is often not ideal - there's often too much chat between music tracks which you can't follow because of the noise of your machines. But nevertheless any music, from whatever source, still acts as a prompt for everyone to sing along, loud, together. Believe me, even in the age of radio and indeed iTunes' playlists, people do still often sing while working, especially when working together in groups. And it has also been shown, repeatedly, that singing while working also boosts productivity as well as employee satisfaction.

PS

And what about hornpipes and shanties, specifically played to assist heavy manual labour on ships ... lifting the anchor, raising the sails, an' all that?


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Wed 27 Jun 2018, 23:16

@Meles meles wrote:
@Caro wrote:
It sometimes seems to me it must have been a very silent world they lived in, apart from the noise from a few implements in things like blacksmiths' forges and animal noises.

Blimey Caro, I thought NZ was a haven of peace and tanquility ... but if what you seem to be suggesting about constant noise/music - and not just passively accepted but expected as normal - then it sounds, perhaps literally, like hell ... at least to me.

I live, quite contentedly, on my own, with the nearest neighbours some 100m away. I never have the radio on; very, very rarely watch TV; and only sometimes put a music CD on, perhaps when cooking, sewing, or doing some other house-bound chore. So for the most part there is no sound here other than birdsong and (quietly) the adjacent river; or very distantly the sound of children playing; someone perhaps doing some DIY or mowing their lawn; a passing car maybe once or twice an hour; or the bleating and bells from distant goats. Maybe that is indeed a bit like in the middle ages - but whatever, it's fine by me.

But perhaps our relative isolation here does make us a little bit more uninhibited. My neighbour does sometimes open her windows and play the piano, forté ... and she does also on occasion sing, out-loud, while working in the garden. Generally her singing isn't as musical as her piano-playing (IMO her Chopin nocturnes and sonatas are very accomplished - her vocal rendering of various ABBA numbers rather less so), but I certainly don't find her occasional al-fresco singing annoying ...  but then, mea culpa, I sometimes sing outside too (and while my dog generally hates my singing, he does sometimes join in with a howling counter-point, a capella, doggy descant).

@Caro wrote:
You hear often about other cultures' use of music to soothe them while they worked at menial or slave jobs (American Africans for example), but you don't hear so much of the music of English workers.

There is actually a whole genre of traditional English songs that arose in the 19th century in Lancashire mill towns, specifically with a beat to match the fixed pace of the textile looms, and which also carried over into dance from the measured foot-tapping which was used to count time whilst operating the machines.

I've worked in industries that were sometimes repetetive and noisy. Tuning into the local radio station is often not ideal - there's often too much chat between tracks and anyway you can't hear the words over the noise of the factory machines. Usually then the music just acted as a prompt for everyone to sing along, loud, together. Believe me, even in the age of radio or indeed iTunes' playlists, people do still often sing while working, especially when working together in groups. It has also been shown been shown, time and again, that singing while working also boosts productivity as well as employee satisfaction.

PS

And what about hornpipes and shanties, specifically played to assist heavy manual labour on ships ... lifting the anchor, raising the sails, an' all that?

Meles meles,

"I live, quite contentedly, on my own, with the nearest neighbours some 100m away. I never have the radio on; very, very rarely watch TV; and only sometimes put a music CD on, perhaps when cooking, sewing, or doing some other house-bound chore. So for the most part there is no sound here other than birdsong and (quietly) the adjacent river; or very distantly the sound of children playing; someone perhaps doing some DIY or mowing their lawn; a passing car maybe once or twice an hour; or the bleating and bells from distant goats. Maybe that is indeed a bit like in the middle ages - but whatever, it's fine by me."

When I was a child I had a rich imagination...starting early to read books...seven or eight...and in my imagination I saw it all...a constructed world of images, films of what my imagination made of what I read...and some texts sticked in my memory forever...as some small text I had to translate from Latin in the fourth Latin of the Humaniora (I already explained it to you about that Humaniora (humanités)). (Humaniora: six years, starting with the sixth and ending with the fifth: the Poésis and the first: the Rethorica)

And that text was from Ovidius (I see now that it is Ovid in English) it was about a peasants couple living in complete harmony with the country life (land life? Dutch: "landleven") aproaching the house of the couple and describing in a lyric wise the road to it in detail...I still remember the amaryllis (while I had to seek for it in the dictionary and it is not the Amaryllis figure of Ovid but the flower)...It will always stick in my mind as a description of peace...nearly the heaven on earth...

And on such occasions of your lyric description it jumps again to mind alife and kicking...and on each such occasion it will be the rest of my life...
And of course I know that reality is quite otherwise, but I will always be happy to think about it in that imaginery way...

I did some research and of course it is as seeking a needle in a haystack ('n naald in 'n hooiberg)...
It is certainly not Baucis and Philomena as I saw the text:
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Metamorphoses/Baucis_and_Philemon

Or in the Georgica or the Bucolica?...or wasn't that from Ovid?

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Thu 28 Jun 2018, 21:42

Meles meles,

off topic again and sorry Temperance for hijacking your thread again (as I many times do)...
The whole week here everytime in the news: veganists making even death threats to butchers in France. The butchers seem to have even called for police protection...the same overhere, but not yet a call for the police protection...one butcher today on the tele: if you call the police it even becomes worser...
And the leaders, animal front and all, do"alsof hun neus bloedt" (as if their nose bleeds) (they translate it by: act like knowing nothing, pretending nothing has happened, do as if there is no elephant in the room)...
One speaks about the djihadists of the Islam, but aren't that no youngsters, who are made their mind mad by older Imans, who certainly know what they do...and I agree also by the mighty internet, absorbing all kind of stirring up talks...some parallels with this veganist question?

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Thu 28 Jun 2018, 23:39

Something Paul mentioned made me think of "whirling dervishes" though I'm not sure what religion if any they belonged to.  MM made mention of work songs as in the Lancashire cotton mills for example.  Not a work song but I had been thinking of a song "The Calico Printer's Clerk" where a young man becomes enamoured of a lady called Dorothy Drew who betrays him with a Calico Printer's Clerk - "She was very fond of dancing but allow me to remark that one fine day she danced away with a {or the?} Calico Printer's Clerk.  The song is set in Manchester - I'm not sure if it's a traditional song or a music hall song with a known author but I used to know somebody who sang it in a folk club.  The subject of the song meets Dorothy at a "private ball" so maybe it's not strictly speaking a work song but here is a version sung by a group called the Heaton Weavers. 
I'm very tired at present so need to sleep but maybe I will come back to mention more about the "whirling dervishes" when I have done a bit of sleuthing about them and maybe songs which are more specifically related to work like "Poverty Knock" but must break for the time being.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 01:53

In response to MM,  I too live in quite a rural area, a little town where I don't hear many neighbours.  But we do live 100 metres from a trucking firm so stock trucks go past where I live regularly, most especially morning and evening.  Our house is set back from the road with trees around it, so noise doesn't really penetrate.  

And I do listen to the radio, though it is the National station which plays mostly serious interviews or slightly alternative music (we never hear Ed Sheeran or other popular stars on it).  But I find it hard to imagine a world without recorded music and certainly cities now have music blasting out onto the streets and in all shops (especially round Christmas - I sometimes wonder why shop assistants don't go mad having to hear the same carols over and over).  And young people especially love live bands and the noise (so loud they need ear-muffs which is beyond my understanding; I remember going to Jimmy Barnes once and it was so loud I couldn't hear whether I knew the songs or not!) of these shows.  

I do gather that the noise in 19th century cities that horses and the wagons or barouches or whatever made was more excessive than present-day traffic.  The clattering of hooves and the sound of wheels on stones and the shouting of drivers etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 12:11

The reference to quiet in former times made me think of something I read in an autobiographical work by Julien Green (brought up in France of American parentage who wrote mostly if not wholly in French). He was born about 1900 I think and mentioned something of his youth in Paris as having been able to hear oneself speak in the (Paris) streets in those days.

But my main reason for making a comment here is despite what I said in yesterday's post neither to post about the whirling dervishes nor about "Poverty Knock" nor about St Vitus Dance referring back to the original purpose of this thread.  Sometimes thinking about one thing leads to another and I wondered if Will Kempe's 9 days' wonder is worth a mention. There is a contemporary Will Kemp and a dancer at that but the one I am thinking of is the contemporary of Shakespeare who danced from London to Norwich over a period of 9 days.  https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/will-kemps-nine-days-wonder-1600
www.amaranthpublishing.com/Kemp.htm

As far as I know Will Kempe was NOT whackadoodle though.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 13:22

He wasn't - he was just a crazy so-and-so! I always think Wobbleweapon had Will Kempe in mind when he wrote about Yorick:

GRAVEDIGGER: A whoreson mad fellow’s it was. Whose do you think it was?

HAMLET: Nay, I know not.

GRAVEDIGGER: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! He poured a flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick’s skull, the king’s jester.

HAMLET: Let me see.

(Takes the skull.)

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now - how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?


Kempe left Shakespeare's company, Lord Chamberlain's Men, around 1599 having had a great huff with just about everyone. He did his marathon dance - cheered along the way by great crowds - to raise cash and to say "Sod the lot of you," to everyone at the Globe. He was hugely popular and one of the first great English comedians. He died in abject poverty around 1603.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 15:24

PS This is Mark Rylance and the Globe company doing a Kempe-like jig at the end of Richard II ( starts a minute or so into clip). It's brilliant, but must be exhausting- all those leaps. Imagine doing this sort of dancing all the way to Norwich! It looks really good fun, but you would need to be super-fit to keep going for any length of time.





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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 16:46

Ha ... that's a coincidence, I was looking for a suitable youtube of the 17th century dance tune named 'Kempe's Jig', (sadly all the modern versions seem to be played, not as fast and bouncy 6:8 jigs as was the original, but as slow, staid, mournful ballads - and more often than not played on the lute or guitar, rather than on the soprano flute, recorder or the delightfully-named glarklein-flötlein, as was originally intended) ... but whilst searching I also came across that clip and was going to post it, but you beat me to it. Brilliant, as always, isn't it? And Mark Rylance grinning all the way through; looks like they were all having tremendous fun. I wish that Richard II performance, as well as the earlier Richard III, were available to buy as DVDs. They would go straight into my personal Christmas Box.

The music by the way is the Pavane 'La Bataille' by the Flemish composer Tielman Susato, from his collection of dance music arrangements first published in 1551 under the title 'Dansereye'.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 17:37

I just regret I never got to see Rylance in any of these productions - and, as I think you know, only Twelfth Night is available on DVD - such a shame. Imagine seeing that performance on a glorious June evening (like today) - and then wandering along the South Bank with friends trying not to do a similar jig - or, more like, having a drink or two, and then doing a jig! Oh, to be young again!

I originally put Ryland, not Rylance - the heat is obviously getting to me.

PS Thank you for info about music.


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 17:49

@Temperance wrote:
Imagine seeing that production on a June evening similar to today ...

Yes indeed I have happy memories of seeing 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', performed on 23rd June many years back, at the open-air theatre in Regent's Park when I was just a poor student at Imperial College (and you were then allowed to bring your own champers ... or cava in our case). I also recall, even further back into the mists of time (as a teenager on holiday with my parents) watching 'King Lear' performed at the Minnack open-air theatre in Cornwall, set into the cliffs with just the rocks and sea as a backdrop. Being open air when someone cried, "Lo! An army doth approach!", indeed it did ... winding its way up the cliff path, dozens of men, with spears, horses, banners, burning torches, the lot. And when Lear rants and raves on the cliff edge ... well he really did, or at least it seemed so from the audience.

Great memories.

And for those unfamiliar with the Minnack Theatre ... here it is,




... a spectacular setting or what?


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 17:53

Ah the Minnack on a summer's evening with a picnic and champagne...

Must go and water all my pots before I burst into tears!

Bitter-sweet tears, I should add - remembrance of things past. But, like you, I am fortunate indeed to have so many great memories - even if I never did get to dance a jig along the South Bank!
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 29 Jun 2018, 23:29

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
The reference to quiet in former times made me think of something I read in an autobiographical work by Julien Green (brought up in France of American parentage who wrote mostly if not wholly in French). He was born about 1900 I think and mentioned something of his youth in Paris as having been able to hear oneself speak in the (Paris) streets in those days.

But my main reason for making a comment here is despite what I said in yesterday's post neither to post about the whirling dervishes nor about "Poverty Knock" nor about St Vitus Dance referring back to the original purpose of this thread.  Sometimes thinking about one thing leads to another and I wondered if Will Kempe's 9 days' wonder is worth a mention. There is a contemporary Will Kemp and a dancer at that but the one I am thinking of is the contemporary of Shakespeare who danced from London to Norwich over a period of 9 days.  https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/will-kemps-nine-days-wonder-1600
www.amaranthpublishing.com/Kemp.htm

As far as I know Will Kempe was NOT whackadoodle though.


Lady,

"neither to post about the whirling dervishes nor about "Poverty Knock" nor about St Vitus Dance referring back to the original purpose of this thread. "

"whirling dervishes"
And as I have done now the research, excuse me LiR for my impertinence, I will put it on our forum...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Cf-ZxDfZA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dervish
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufi_whirling
From the wiki:
 It is a customary meditation practice performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes (also called semazens, from Persian سماعزن) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one's nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one's body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.[1]
Sama (Turkish: Sema, Persian, Urdu and Arabic: سَمَاع‎ - samā‘un) is a Sufi ceremony performed as dhikr. Sama means "listening", while dhikr means "remembrance".[1] These rituals often includes singing, playing instruments, dancing, recitation of poetry and prayers, wearing symbolic attire, and other rituals. It is a particularly popular form of worship in Sufism.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhikr
From the wiki:
Dhikr (also Zikr, Zekr, Zikir, Jikir, and variants; Arabic: ذِكْر‎, translit. ḏikr [ðɪkr]; plural أذكار aḏkār [ʔaðˈkɑːr], meaning "mentioning")[1]:470 is the name of devotional acts in Islam in which short phrases or prayers are repeatedly recited silently within the mind or aloud. It is counted on a set of prayer beads (Misbaha مِسْبَحَة), comparable to the rosary of Catholic tradition or Japa Mala of Hindu tradition. A person who recites the Dhikr is called a ḏākir ([ˈðaːkɪr] ذاكر). Tasbih (تسبيح) is a form of dhikr that involves the repetitive utterances of short sentences glorifying God. The content of the prayers includes the names of God, or a duʿāʾ (prayer of supplication) taken from the hadith or the Quran.


"comparable to the rosary of Catholic tradition or Japa Mala of Hindu tradition."
Yes I remember the rosary in "college"...Always the same "wees gegroet Maria" (ave Maria gracias plena...) Always the same mantra after each other...I can understand that one came to rest by that endless repetition...or fell asleep...or got in trance...
Perhaps it was the same with the dervishes...getting in trance...? I saw a documentary of negro dances where the ladies got in trance and lost conscienceness at the end...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Fri 03 Aug 2018, 13:30

@Temperance wrote:
the average peasant living in the Middle Ages, besides living with the continual fear of war, famine and plague, must have been battling on a daily basis with emotions they could not - dare not - express. It was impossible to tell the feudal lord (or his lady), the local priest, or anyone else in a position of power - and such people were everywhere - to "sod off". Repression on a huge scale? Was manic, hysterical dancing (and female hysteria is known to be "catching") a bizarre way of letting go, a release of pent-up fury, a form of crazy protest that quickly became an obsessive-compulsive ritual for some women - and men too? The religious aspect - dancing for Saint Vitus - could well have been a convenient excuse, a bit like those angry girls, the anorexic nuns, who fasted themselves to near death "for the love of Christ". I wonder if this out-of-control medieval dancing madness was a sort of communal female "Sod off to the lot of you!"  - taken to manic extremes.

In this article in The Lancet, John Waller suggests a possible 'cultural contagion' and also draws attention to the fact that the outbreaks of mediaeval dance mania tended to cluster around the Rhine and Moselle valleys:

A forgotten plague: making sense of dance mania

In another article in The Psychologist, he draws parallels with contemporaneous outbreaks of psychomotor behaviour in nunneries. Symptoms including running around like dogs, miaowing like cats, clawing up trees and even jumping off trees and trying to fly like birds:

Dancing plagues and mass hysteria

He suggests that while dancing mania may have subsided, other forms of mass psychogenic illness do still periodically occur.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Sat 04 Aug 2018, 08:59

Thanks for those links, Vizzer - how interesting that dissociative trance is mentioned - something I noted when I quoted Dr Gabor Maté:


An important clue to the cause of these bizarre outbreaks lies in the fact that they appear to have involved dissociative trance, a condition involving (among other things) a dramatic loss of self-control.

Religious guilt and repressed anger (repressed God-knows-what actually) I'm sure is the key here - will see if I can find any reference to dancing mania in writings on the Jungian "Shadow". All our shadows will out, one way or another, although usually not in such a bizarre fashion. Interesting too that this "loss of control" happened in pre-Reformation Germany and the Netherlands - both areas which later threw off Catholicism. Erfurt was specifically mentioned. How odd that that very town was where Martin Luther began his training to be a monk and where he regularly had nocturnal wrestling bouts with the Devil himself. Don't think he and the Devil ever danced around in Luther's monkish cell, but you never know. Seriously - there was something that rebelled against Catholic control and doctrine in the psyches of people living in that region. Was manic dancing the precursor of the Protestant Reformation? Peasants Strictly Dancing rather than Peasants Strictly Rebelling? The great rebellion came a hundred or so years later of course: fewer lives would have been lost all over Europe perhaps if the peasants and the intellectuals/theologians had stuck to dancing - ordinary sort, that is, not manic.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Sun 05 Aug 2018, 18:11

@Temperance wrote:
All our shadows will out, one way or another, although usually not in such a bizarre fashion.

A very good sentence Temp. It reminds of a recent television program which looked at Tourette’s syndrome. The presenter, actress Jess Thom (who herself regularly ejects the word ‘biscuit’ among other extra-opine words), suggested that this was possibly linked to social exclusion and ‘neuro-diversity’.

Thom tours in a performance of Samuel Beckett’s monologue Not I. The subject of the play is a disembodied female voice with the lighting (on an otherwise darkened stage) illuminating only the actor’s mouth. The Mouth speaks in quick, disjointed sentences and phrases which hint at some unspecified trauma experienced in the past but all the while denying that the trauma was experienced by herself.

In the program Thom meets with Dr Derval Tubridy, lecturer at Goldsmiths and an expert on the work of Beckett. Tubridy says that the experience of the Mouth is highly suggestive of someone who had been incarcerated in the one of the Magdalene laundries in Beckett's (and Tubridy's) native Ireland. The experience of those in the laundries, of course, was only one degree removed from the experience of those living in the nunneries which ran them.

P.S. With regard to miaowing nuns (and as a slight counterweight to the above) I distinctly remember a miaowing craze briefly taking hold in my school when I was about 13. This involved (mainly boys) responding to any question from other pupils (or even from teachers) with an insolent miaow. Only a few girls took part in this. Most girls, however, seemed to view it as juvenile and immature behaviour. This, of course, would correspond with the developmental disparity between the sexes within that age group.
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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Tue 07 Aug 2018, 16:03

I wonder if the phenomenon of "amok" (a Malaysian/Indonesian term) is related to dancing mania? Running amok is "to behave in a frenzied, out-of-control or unrestrained manner".

Laurens van der Post experienced the phenomenon in the East Indies and wrote in 1955:


'Gelap mata', the Dark Eye, is an expression used in Sumatra and Java to describe a curious and disturbing social phenomenon. Socially speaking, the Malays, Sumatrans and Javanese are the best behaved people I have ever encountered. On the surface they are an extremely gentle, refined, submissive people. In fact the word 'Malay' comes from 'malu', 'gentle', and gentleness is a quality prized above all others among the Malays and their neighbours. In their family life, in their submission to traditional and parental authority, in their communal duties, they are among the most obedient people on earth. But every now and then something very disturbing happens. A man who has behaved in this obliging manner all his life and who has always done his duty by the outside world to perfection, suddenly finds it impossible to keep doing so. Overnight he revolts against goodness and dutifulness...

"Overnight he revolts against goodness and dutifulness" - similarities there surely with our suddenly-disobedient-and-crazy peasants and nuns? Running amok is when the apparently gentle and obedient soul has simply had enough of goodness and dutifulness: the shadow breaks out - and the result is extreme. "Amok" can, of course, involve violence to others: dancing mania seems to have been rather a form of self-harm.


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PostSubject: Re: Dancing Mania   Wed 08 Aug 2018, 10:59

I wonder too if the phenomenon reported below is - like the Malaysian running amok or "latah" - possibly similar to the dancing mania?

The following sounds like something out of an old Monty Python sketch, but is not:

The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine


Although the exact cause of Jumping Frenchmen of Maine syndome is unknown, it is believed to be a neuropsychiatric disorder. The startle reaction is a normal human response to sudden or unexpected noise or movement. However, in individuals with jumping Frenchmen of Maine the reaction is exaggerated or abnormal.

The above article notes that these peculiar disorders are exacerbated by extreme stress, emotional tension and isolation.

More information on this strange condition in this article from the New England Historical Society:

Jumping Lumberjacks
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