History Of Dance

The history of dance is vast, beginning from the time it was used as a way to communicate and carry out rituals, then evolving to a type of artistic expression and eventually becoming a source of entertainment as well. An interesting aspect of dance history is seen in centuries eleven to seventeen when a strange kind of epidemic spread across Europe like wildfire, which caused the affected people to start dancing wildly in the streets. Women would howl, weep, people would scream and want to be flung up into the air, and there would be a general sense of absolute chaos.

Dancing Mania

The epidemic came to be known as the “dancing mania”, a term adopted when a group of people danced so enthusiastically on a bridge in Germany that it ended up collapsing. In Italy it was also known as “tarantism”, since it was believed that the people had been bitten by the tarantula spider, and its poison was what made them hysterical. Although it petered out around the seventeenth century, a few more cases were seen in southern Italy recently in the mid to late twentieth century. Taking place almost always during July and August, the hottest summer months, it would start with the people feeling a sting like that of a bee. They would immediately get immensely excited and run off in hysterics to the market or elsewhere. Although it was claimed at the time that these actions were due to the bite of the tarantula spider, no solid proof was found of this fact. It was also true that most participants denied being bitten by a spider or any other insect, and also participated in the episodes at certain times only.

Modern Reasoning

A theory relating to the cause of tarantism that makes much more sense points out that these episodes took place most frequently during periods of crisis such social turmoil, crop failures, droughts, and sickness. This leads us to believe that the stress caused by this kind of disruption led to hysterical episodes during which people vented out their frustrations and let themselves go. Many symptoms seen in dancing mania are actually consistent with minimal sleep, excessive intake of alcohol, and extreme physical activity.

It is quite clear, however, that the dancing mania was not as wildly spontaneous as some records say. It had clear religious and ritualistic features to it which tell us that rather than being solely rooted in stress-induced hysterics, it probably had a strong connection with tradition as well.

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