MEDIEVAL DANCE PARTY
Aachen did not represent the only manifestation of this behavior however. Dancing Mania, a predominantly social phenomenon, occurred across Europe. Other Dancing Mania expressions were soon witnessed to Cologne, Strasbourg, Metz, and Flanders. Within two years, it had been seen all over Germany as well as in France, Holland, Luxembourg, and Italy. It existed off and on for almost 300 years.
Their activity was not without consequences. Many experienced chest pains, convulsions, hyperventilation, and of course physical exhaustion. Some underwent heart attacks and died. Visions and hallucinations were frequently reported. Dancing Mania affected individuals and groups; men and women (and even children). Some of the dancing groups numbered several thousand people.
So what’s going on?
There is no agreement among researchers as to the cause behind Dancing Mania. It was
originally called the “Dancing Plague” and people of the time believed that the
condition was a curse placed on them by either St. Vitus or St. John. Hence it
was also named “St. Vitus’ Dance” or “St. John’s Dance.” Praying to these
saints would eventually lift the dancing curse and the people could resume
their normal lives.
The second theory posits that the dancing was a social phenomenon resulting from the stress and tension of the Middle Ages. Certainly there were plagues, wars, religious persecutions, poverty, and natural calamities. Psychologists call this “shared stress.” The dancers were attempting to experience jubilation and visions to take their mind off their problems.
Some historians contend that the Dancing Mania was staged. Some religious cults of that time in Europe were rebelling against the Catholic Church and trying to return to ancient Roman rituals. Since the open exercise of these rituals was banned by the church, they could still be practiced without responsibility by apparent uncontrollable Dancing Mania.