In this essay, I will be discussing events if death related to dancing throughout history. The most known event of death by dancing was the Dancing Plague of 1518. Danse Macabre is a form of allegory art during the middle ages. A large part of this essay will be about dancing mania that occurred between the 14th and 17th centuries.
One of the first major outbreaks of dancing mania happened in Aachen, Germany in the late 14th century. In 1374 German citizens “started to pour out of their houses and into the streets where they began to writhe and whirl uncontrollably.”-Marissa Fessenden, with smithsonianmag.com. The dancing spread to spread to different parts of Europe near Germany. Churches thought that the citizens had been possessed by Satan or cursed by a saint. “Called Tarantism in Italy, it was believed the dancing was either brought on by the bite of a spider or a way to work out the poisons the arachnid had injected.”-Marissa Fessenden, with smithsonianmag.com. Today most interpretations are that it was caused by a toxin from a fungus that grew on rye. “Ergot poisoning, or ergotism, could bring on hallucinations, spasms, and delusions thanks to the psychoactive chemicals produced by the fungus Claviceps purpurea,” writes Steven Gilbert for the Toxipedia. But some of the outbreaks happened in areas where the citizens did not eat rye. Some people believe that the people started dancing after entering a trance-like state because of psychological trauma after the events of the black-death. The next major outbreak is known as the Dancing Plague of 1518.
The Dancing Plague of 1518 happened in Strasbourg, France. This is one of the biggest outbreaks of dancing mania and the most well-known. It lasted from between 4 to 6 days and there were over 400 dancers. Most of the dancers died from heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion, one account indicates that for a time the plague killed 15 people a day. One of the theories of this event was also poisoning from the bacteria that grew on rye.
“In July 1518, a woman whose name was given as Frau (Mrs.) Troffea (or Trauffea) stepped into the street and began dancing. She seemed unable to stop, and she kept dancing until she collapsed from exhaustion. After resting, she resumed the compulsive frenzied activity. She continued this way for days, and within a week more than 30 other people were similarly afflicted. They kept going long past the point of injury. City authorities were alarmed by the ever-increasing number of dancers. The civic and religious leaders theorized that more dancing was the solution, and so they arranged for guildhalls for the dancers to gather in, musicians to accompany the dancing, and professional dancers to help the afflicted to continue dancing. This only exacerbated the contagion, and as many as 400 people were eventually consumed by the dancing compulsion. A number of them died from their exertions. In early September the mania began to abate.”-Patricia Bauer with www.britannica.com.
The dancing manias big or small were very interesting and deadly events to the people who participated. I find it interesting that these events happened in real history. I took the paragraph above from an article because it gave a lot of information about the Dancing Plague of 1518. The next topic that I am going to talk about is not a dancing mania but an art motif through the middles ages.
Danse Macabre or Dance of Death was “a medieval allegorical concept of the all-conquering and equalizing power of death, expressed in the drama, poetry, music, and visual arts of western Europe mainly in the late Middle Ages.”- The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, www.britannica.com. “Strictly speaking, it is a literary or pictorial representation of a procession or dance of both living and dead figures, the living arranged in order of their rank, from pope and emperor to child, clerk, and hermit, and the dead leading them to the grave.”- The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, www.britannica.com. Danse Macabre went out of style when the Renaissance came around but it was a very cool art motif.
In conclusion, death and dance have gone hand in hand in history and it ended badly and beautifully. I hope that this essay is informative about dancing manias and danse macabre because they are very interesting topics.