Through a few degrees of separation, starting with 3 Daft Monkeys and their latest single, through to this folk webcast thing led me to reading about the Dancing Plague in Strasbourg back in 1518. This historically documented event was the inspiration for the Monkeys song ‘Days of the Dance’ (which you should avail yourself of, for it is awesome).
In a nutshell a lady of Strasbourg – a town that had suffered famine and difficult times – called Frau Troffea took to the street and danced. There was no music, she just danced. Within a week she had a few dozen companions who had joined her in this eerie mania, after a month the dancers numbered in the hundreds, and there had been fatalities through heart attacks, strokes and exhaustion.
The authorities at the time believed the solution was to get them to ‘dance it out’ so to speak, so hired musicians and made space for the dance to continue. Day and night. Of course, it’s referred to as a dance – but this one came with foaming-at-the-mouth, animal noises and rolling around in the dirt. We’re certainly not talking a square-dance or a rave, here!
There’s lots of theories regarding the cause, but none that seem to match all the symptoms.
Of course, there’s only so much you can learn from Wikipedia so perhaps I should pick up a copy of John Waller’s book on the subject that might perhaps offer a greater insight into this spooky event. I do like unraveling something I enjoy (in this case a 3 Daft Monkeys song) and tracing a path through to the original inspiration – and, of course, encountering some nice music to boot courtesy of the good folks at FolkCast.
Probably not the most productive day off from work I’ve ever had (although I have had some fun toying with a door-to-door and a telephone-based salesperson today as well), but absorbing nonetheless. I’m off to play football shortly, so at least I’ll be getting outside and running about a bit!