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Published by Arianna Brunell

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Published by: Arianna Brunell on Apr 22, 2013
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Brunell 1Arianna BrunellLindsy CieslewiczDance 46030 November 2012Dance Mania In The Middle AgesThe late Middle Ages provided difficult times for the people of Europe. Difficult timesincluding the Hundred Year 
War, the Black Plague, and power struggles with the Christianchurch. Many individuals were forced into depression, and soon decided that their life was nolonger important in the world. Just like in modern day, individuals deal with pain, suffering,happiness, and stress etc. in many different ways. Knowing how to deal with these differentkinds of emotions will help an individual control drastic measure of action. In the late MiddleAges, many people had not suffered because of the start of a prosperous living. However, oncetragedies hit one after another, Europeans had to learn how to deal with such heartache. Somefelt that the only way to survive this tragic time in history was to dance until they could not feelanymore, even to the point of collapse or death. As war, religious persecution, and plague hitEurope in the late Middle Ages, individuals were forced into a dance mania in order to keepsane.Dance mania was known as a mass psychosis that individuals went through in response tothe pain and hardships of the late Middle Ages. People would suddenly break out into a dancewherever they were. It could have been in their homes, in the streets, or even in marketplaces.Many would not have any control to start of stop this continual act of dancing. Because deathwas th
e center of everyone’s lives,
they transformed how they saw death into a dance. Whether 
the liked it or not, death was a part of them, and probably wouldn’t leave until emotionally taken
Brunell 2care of. There is not a particular dance that would be used. Some dancers performed like theywere in a state of ecstasy, or hysterical grotesque dancing. Often loud shouting or verbalizationwould accompany these dances. These individuals who got into a hysterical state were not ableto stop. It is mentioned that these individuals would not stop until a point of exhaustion, or evendeath. It is also assumed to be contagious, often striking in small groups, such as families andindividuals. Families and friends mourn together through tough times, so it only makes sense thatdance mania would spread to those closest to the originators. There were only a few theoreticalcures for dance mania: isolation, cold showers, or playing sweet music nonstop for days toexhaust the afflicted person. However, these were only theoretical cures, not absolute actioncould be taken to stop the dance mania. Because death was continually taking people from everysocial status, death was all people could truly think about. According to Charles Herbermann of the Catholic Encyclop
edia, “The epidemics so frequent and so destructive at that time, such as
the Black Death, brought before popular imagination the subject of death and its universal
sway.” Death was not only happening to families and friends, but it was now the subject of 
entertainment. Death was the hot topic, or the talk of the town. People wanted to read about it,sing about it, view paintings about it, and dance about it. There are three main dance manias thatare recorded in history. These famous dance epidemics are, t
he Children’s Crusades and the PiedPiper, the St. Vitus’ Dance
, and the tarantella.
The Children’s Crusades and Pied Piper 
basically tempted children with music. Themusic played put them under a magic spell. The children were then taken and never to bereturned. This magic spell forced the children to dance and dance as they traveled aroundEurope. Because of the numerous deaths of children during the late Middle Ages, it has been
suggested that the Pied Piper symbolizes the children’s death by plague
or catastrophe. Creating
Brunell 3 plots like this helped cure the hearts of parents and loved ones.
This “fairy tale” created a
dramatic story to entertain the cen
ter of everyone’s lives, death. There have been many stories of 
  parents describing the pain of losing a child. It is reported that it is much harder to lose a childthan to lose anyone else in your life. Children are such a precious gift given to each parent. Oncea treasured offspring is taken from this world, an individual is not the same. Because of the painof such loss, people cured the pain by making reality into a fairy tale, a fairy tale of a serious,heart-breaking dance epidemic.
St. Vitus’ Dance is an informal name for Sydenham chorea. According to a
n A.D.A.M.Disclaimer, Sydenham chorea happens when there are
“Jerky, uncontrollable, and purposeless
movements that look like twitches. There is a loss of motor control, loss of emotional control
with bout of inappropriate crying or laughing, and symptoms of rheumatic fever.”
This is not atheory or a situation that we assumed happened, but reality. This disease happens in our day andage. In the late Middle Ages, people with this terrible disease traveled to the St. Vitus Chapel to be cured. It is reported that if they refused, they would be excommunicated from the church.Because of the twitching symptoms of Sydenham chorea, many thought that traveling to the
 patron saint of dancers and actors, St. Vitus, would cure this “dance epidemic”. It is very
interesting how people of the Middle Ages and people of modern day think so differently.Because of our advancement in medicine, individuals today are able to take an antibiotic to getrid of this disease. In the late Middle Ages, we are not sure if individuals were cured from thisdisease they thought to be a dance.
Although it is something that happens today, we don’t hear itvery often. However, the St. Vitus’ Dance was considered a famous dance epidemic in the
Middle Ages.

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