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Dancing Disease

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Dancing Disease

Post  columba on Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:48 pm

I came across an article recently on wikipedia. It's quite funny both in the humorous sense and the strange sense of the word. It occurred during the latter part of the middle ages and continued for a few centuries.




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dancing mania (also known as dancing plague, choreomania, St John's Dance and, historically, St. Vitus' Dance) was a social phenomenon that occurred primarily in mainland Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. It involved groups of people dancing erratically, sometimes thousands at a time. The mania affected men, women, and children, who danced until they collapsed from exhaustion. One of the first major outbreaks was in Aachen, Germany, in 1374, and it quickly spread throughout Europe; one particularly notable outbreak occurred in Strasbourg in 1518.

"Dancing mania" is derived from the term "choreomania", from the Greek choros (dance) and mania (madness),[3]:133–4 and is also known as "dancing plague".[4]:125 The term was coined by Paracelsus,[4]:126 and the condition was initially considered a curse sent by a saint,[5] usually St John the Baptist[6]:32 or St Vitus, and was therefore known as "St Vitus' Dance" or "St John's Dance". Victims of dancing mania often ended their processions at places dedicated to that saint,[3]:136 who was prayed to in an effort to end the dancing;[4]:126 incidents often broke out around the time of the feast of St Vitus.[7]:201

St Vitus' Dance was diagnosed, in the 17th century, as Sydenham chorea.[8] Dancing mania has also been known as epidemic chorea[4]:125 and epidemic dancing.[5] A disease of the nervous system, chorea is characterized by symptoms resembling those of dancing mania,[3]:134 which has also rather unconvincingly been considered a form of epilepsy.[6]:32 Scientists have described dancing mania as a "collective mental disorder", "collective hysterical disorder", and "mass madness".[3]:136

Outbreaks

The earliest known outbreak of dancing mania occurred in the 7th century,[9] and it reappeared many times across Europe until about the 17th century, when it stopped abruptly.[3]: 132 One of the earliest known incidents occurred sometime in the 1020s in Bernburg, where 18 peasants began singing and dancing around a church, disturbing a Christmas Eve service.[7]: 202

Further outbreaks occurred during the 13th century, including one in 1237 in which a large group of children travelled from Erfurt to Arnstadt, jumping and dancing all the way,[7]:201 in marked similarity to the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.[9] Another incident, in 1278, involved about 200 people dancing on a bridge over the River Meuse in Germany, resulting in its collapse. Many of the survivors were restored to full health at a nearby chapel dedicated to St Vitus.[3]:134 The first major outbreak of the mania occurred between 1373 and 1374, with incidents reported in England, Germany and the Netherlands.[6]:33

On 24 June 1374, one of the biggest outbreaks began in Aix-la-Chapelle, Aachen (now Germany),[4]:126 before spreading to other places such as Cologne, Flanders, Franconia, Hainaut, Metz, Strasbourg, Tongeren, Utrecht,[6]:33 and to countries such as Italy and Luxembourg. Further episodes occurred in 1375 and 1376, with incidents in France, Germany and Holland,[3]: 138 and in 1381 there was an outbreak in Augsburg.[6]:33 Further incidents occurred in 1418 in Strasbourg, where people fasted for days and the outbreak was possibly caused by exhaustion.[3]: 137 In another outbreak, in 1428 in Schaffhausen, a monk danced to death and, in the same year, a group of women in Zurich were reportedly in a dancing frenzy.

One of the biggest outbreaks occurred in July 1518, in Strasbourg (see Dancing Plague of 1518), where a woman named Frau Troffea began dancing in the street; within four days she had been joined by 33 others, and within a month there were 400, many of whom suffered heart attacks and died.[6]:33 Further incidents occurred during the 16th century, when the mania was at its peak: in 1536 in Basel, involving a group of children; and in 1551 in Anhalt, involving just one man.[6]: 37 In the 17th century, incidents of recurrent dancing were recorded by professor of medicine 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 to betake themselves to that place... [o]ne of these women is said to have danced every year for the past twenty years, another for a full thirty-two.[6]:39

Dancing mania appears to have completely died out by the mid-17th century.[6]: 46 According to John Waller, although numerous incidents were recorded, the best documented cases are the outbreaks of 1374 and 1518, for which there is abundant contemporary evidence.[5]

Affecting thousands of people across several centuries, dancing mania was not an isolated event, and was well documented in contemporary reports. It was nevertheless poorly understood, and remedies were based on guesswork. Generally, musicians accompanied dancers, to help ward off the mania, but this tactic sometimes backfired by encouraging more to join in. There is no consensus among modern-day scholars as to the cause of dancing mania.[1]

Characteristics

The outbreaks of dancing mania varied, and several characteristics of it have been recorded. Generally occurring in times of hardship,[3]:136 up to tens of thousands of people would appear to dance for hours,[3]:133[10] days, weeks, and even months.[5][3]:132

Women have often been portrayed in modern literature as the usual participants in dancing mania, although contemporary sources suggest otherwise.[3]:139 Whether the dancing was spontaneous, or an organised event, is also debated.[3]:138 What is certain, however, is that dancers seemed to be in a state of unconsciousness,[7]:201 and unable to control themselves.[3]:136

In his research into social phenomena, author Robert Bartholomew notes that contemporary sources record that participants often did not reside where the dancing took place. Such people would travel from place to place, and others would join them along the way. With them they brought customs and behaviour that were strange to the local people.[3]:137 Bartholomew describes how dancers wore "strange, colorful attire" and "held wooden sticks".[3]:132

Robert Marks, in his study of hypnotism, notes that some decorated their hair with garlands.[7]:201 However, not all outbreaks involved foreigners, and not all were particularly calm. Bartholomew notes that some "paraded around naked"[3]:132 and made "obscene gestures".[3]:133 Some even had sexual intercourse.[3]:136 Others acted like animals,[3]:133 and jumped,[6]:32 hopped and leaped about.[6]:33

They hardly stopped,[10] and some danced until they broke their ribs and subsequently died.[6]:32 Throughout, dancers screamed, laughed, or cried,[3]:132 and some sang.[11]:60 Bartholomew also notes that observers of dancing mania were sometimes treated violently if they refused to join in.[3]:139 Participants demonstrated odd reactions to the colour red; in A History of Madness in Sixteenth-Century Germany, Midelfort notes they "could not perceive the color red at all",[6]:32 and Bartholomew reports "it was said that dancers could not stand... the color red, often becoming violent on seeing [it]".

Bartholomew also notes that dancers "could not stand pointed shoes", and that dancers enjoyed their feet being hit.[3]:133 Throughout, those affected by dancing mania suffered from a variety of ailments, including chest pains, convulsions, hallucinations, hyperventilation,[3]:136 epileptic fits,[4]:126 and visions.[12]:71 In the end, most simply dropped down, overwhelmed with exhaustion.[4]:126 Midelfort, however, describes how some ended up in a state of ecstasy.[6]:39 Typically, the mania was contagious but it often struck small groups, such as families, and individuals.[6]:37–8



The several theories proposed range from religious cults being behind the processions to people dancing to relieve themselves of stress and put the poverty of the period out of their minds. It is, however, thought to be as a mass psychogenic illness in which the occurrence of similar physical symptoms, with no known physical cause, affect a large group of people as a form of social influence.[2]

Full article here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_mania
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columba

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Re: Dancing Disease

Post  RememberGethsemane on Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:51 am

Columba, I know this really good therapist you could talk to (she's also a vatican 2 bishop) let me know when you reach melt-down and can't stop dancing with a fag in your hand!

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Re: Dancing Disease

Post  columba on Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:12 pm

RememberGethsemane wrote:Columba, I know this really good therapist you could talk to (she's also a vatican 2 bishop) let me know when you reach melt-down and can't stop dancing with a fag in your hand!

Thanks RG. I wouldn't mind tryin it but right now I'm busier than a one-legged river dancer. Hmmm.. I just might be able to manage a two-step program.

BTW, the VII inter-religious "Quit Smoking" course looks promising. Have a look at this quote and tell me should I sign up?

Nicotine addiction is like an itch. If you itch, it's nice to scratch it. But better to have no itch at all. - Dali Lama

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Re: Dancing Disease

Post  RememberGethsemane on Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:52 pm

Go for it! Even heretics are capable of helping you sometimes ya know.. ever go to the hospital and it's a hindu doctor there treating you?

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Re: Dancing Disease

Post  simple Faith on Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:20 pm

I dug up this old TV clip of Columba demonstrating how the dancing disease affects him when he has more than 2 pints of Guinness. Enjoy!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1JilUK8jeQ
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Re: Dancing Disease

Post  RememberGethsemane on Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:20 pm

simple Faith wrote:I dug up this old TV clip of Columba demonstrating how the dancing disease affects him when he has more than 2 pints of Guinness. Enjoy!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1JilUK8jeQ

LOL, quite a few people suffer from that disease over here too, I was also afflicted with it briefly but that's a long story. Columba sounds like the kinda guy us tight scots like to go out with for a night.. 2 pints? cheap night! I imagine if you two went out drinking you'd soon have the bar arguing the big catholic issues.. doesn't matter if theyre big ulster proddies either!

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Re: Dancing Disease

Post  otremer6 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:42 pm

RememberGethsemane wrote:
simple Faith wrote:I dug up this old TV clip of Columba demonstrating how the dancing disease affects him when he has more than 2 pints of Guinness. Enjoy!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1JilUK8jeQ

LOL, quite a few people suffer from that disease over here too, I was also afflicted with it briefly but that's a long story. Columba sounds like the kinda guy us tight scots like to go out with for a night.. 2 pints? cheap night! I imagine if you two went out drinking you'd soon have the bar arguing the big catholic issues.. doesn't matter if theyre big ulster proddies either!

Oh, too bad. I like Catholic Scots.

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