Medieval European Dance

The Medieval period in Europe was marked by plague, death, and suffering. At this time, Christians revered martyrs and wore hair shirts, and the split between body and soul became deeper, with the body purposely flagellated in order to raise the soul. In this period, the Devil danced, and Death was a dancing skeleton. On the other hand, angels also danced.

What dances did appear in this time period were very reflective of this feeling of the body as innately and incessantly sinful. Dances were small, constrained, close to the body, and showed "parallelism" - where both legs move in the same direction, and both arms move in the same direction, though the legs and arms do not necessarily move in the same direction ( be warned; this is a picture of death - but it does show the parallelism I'm taking about ). In addition, dances had to start on the left - left foot, left side - because it was "known" that witches started on their right. And no one wanted to be accused of being a witch!

The Middle Ages also saw "flagellants," a group of men who would go from town to town, flagellating themselves with whips, and dancing. While these men were supposed to be celibate, they had female followers, and the flagellating and dancing often degenerated into orgies, once again giving dancers a bad name.

Pictures & Articles

Some of these have interesting articles, and others I included only for the pictures - those might be for event listings, etc., but the pictures are nice.

The Medieval Dance of Death
The Mediaeval Dance
Medieval Dance

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