Dancing with the devil Nada Hijaz

One sparking idea that stuck out to me was ritual dance. Ritual dances are not always consistent, they change through generations impacts on them. "Passed down from generation to generation and performed in almost every household, dance is a vehicle for dialogue, and, for many, it’s a way to promote a cause" (Hussein, 16). We can compare this to marriage in our society. Our generations impact on it is not the way it used to be, viewing it from a newer perspective. “Millennials might put off marriage because the priority these days is finding somewhere to live and developing a career,” says Janice Hiller, consultant clinical psychologist at Tavistock relationships clinic in London. Like marriage, dance may be difficult to perceive or interpret, we see it through our specific lens, so it may not always be an accurate message a community or choreographer may be trying to send off. However, dance really indicated the meaning of life too many. It took part in community as a form of education and acceptance. It gave the community a chance for social organization as well. With dance one was able to partake in it with every type of event. From fertility to burial, dance would make its appearance. It was interesting to see the role it played in people’s lives. In the article, “Staging a Ritual Dance out of Its Context,” it states, “the meaning of a dance event derives mainly from its social context, which can be a ritual performance, a festive event, or a staged art form at a given time and place” (Öztürkmen). A ritual dance that was traditional for many years was altered into a more modern style. This was interesting to read because for a native choreographer to open his heart and readjust takes a lot. In "Moved by the Past" do we see how ritual dances can be truly defined, "If dances ... have ritual qualities," she writes, "it is because they are modeled after known or imagined ceremonies and because they aim to connect the participants and the audience to universal or fundamental spiritual principles. Just as rituals have an aesthetic dimension, art dances may join the dancer with the spiritual realm." This was a beautiful way of showing the significance the past has had on many dancers.

One interesting part that sparked my mind was the religious outlook on dance, especially amongst the church. They used terms such as savage and sexual, or wild and indecent, which were all culturally biased. Therefore, when looking at dance through their lens one was unable to see dance being a style or someone's passion, rather their mindset was blocked from assuming it was a sin. In the article, The Body Speaks On Sin, we see that exact perspective. The church was the main focus of medieval society, meaning all education stemmed from their authority on the lives of many. The medieval folks took it as far as having beliefs that gods, goddess, and ritual dance was identified to a peasant’s life. It remained low in status even though it was becoming popular in the middle ages. In the article one alarming quotation stuck out to me, “a thirteenth-century attitude, quoted by Coulton, comes from Étienne de Bourbon: “The Devil is the inventor and governor and disposer of dances and dancers. Moreover, God suffreth him sometimes to vex men with a sudden tempest for this sin of dancing, and to wreak the fury of his wrath upon him” (Hudler, 90-91). People truly believed that dance was a demonic invention! Honestly, for one who loves dance so much, it is hard to comprehend. Today in some cultures dance is still seen as sinful. This is thought provoking due to not really opening up people’s minds to see what dance is truly about, it has the power of saving a life. Berg puts it best in her article, The Sense of the Past, "we can be time travelers, stepping through the door that propels us into the past to renew our perception "not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence" (Berg 42).


Another point that was interesting was, “the medieval fascination with death as an artistic theme resulted from the plague; thus, literature and art began to represent death more in its gory realism and less in its spiritual idealism” (Hudler 25). In one article I found the dancing plague had actually occurred according to the towns observations. “None of these people could stop dancing, though they were frightened and desperate. Town authorities and physicians thought that when the dancers got tired they would stop, so they built stages, hired musicians and set aside places for them to dance. To everyone’s shock, the affected people danced until they died of stroke, exhaustion, heart attack or dehydration. Strangely enough, dancing plagues were not uncommon” (Six Mystifying Medieval Maladies). To be honest I never knew dancing plagues were a thing until now! Looking at it from a contemporary observation we can see it as a sickness but to the church it was a terrible affliction. The psychologists take on it was defined as a "mass psychogenic illness."

“Six Mystifying Medieval Maladies.” History on the Net, 1 June 2017, www.historyonthenet.com/six-mystifying-medieval-maladies/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.

Works Cited

Berg, Shelly. The Sense of the Past. Historiography and Dance.

Hudler, Melissa. The Body Speaks On Sin- The Voice of Dance in the Middle Ages. Lamar University.

Hussein, Eman. “Dabke: A Traditional Dance Loaded with History.” BarakaBits, BarakaBits, 22 Sept. 2016, www.barakabits.com/2016/09/dabke-a-traditional-dance-loaded-with-history. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.

"Moved by the Spirit: Religion's Role in Concert Dance." The Chronicle of Higher Education 51.46 (2005): B.10-11. Web.

Öztürkmen, Arzu. “Staging a Ritual Dance out of Its Context: The Role of an Individual Artist in Transforming the Alevi Semah.” Asian Folklore Studies, vol. 64, no. 2, 2005, pp. 247–260., www.jstor.org/stable/30030422 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

Team, The Stylist web. “How getting married is the "most radical thing" a new generation can do.” Stylist Magazine, 13 June 2016, www.stylist.co.uk/life/marriage-debate-generation-redefining-marriage-weddings-milennial-wife-husband-proposal. Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.

Pneuman, Angela. “My Real Life.” Salon, 18 July 2014. http://www.salon.com/2014/07/20/my_real_life_footloose_i_grew_up_in_a_town_that_banned_secular_music/

“Six Mystifying Medieval Maladies.” History on the Net, 1 June 2017, www.historyonthenet.com/six-mystifying-medieval-maladies/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.


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