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Dancing mania (wikipedia.org)
82 points by kaffeemitsahne on Feb 2, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

> Scientists have described dancing mania as a "collective mental disorder", "collective hysterical disorder", and "mass madness".

You can call it a disorder but it's also human nature. I can see this instance being classified as a modern outbreak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ

"Dancing mania (also known as dancing plague, choreomania, St. John's Dance and, historically, St. Vitus's 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."

The complexity of human behavior never ceases to amaze me. The more I learn about it, the more I realize how little I know. Here we have numerous documented instances, over several centuries, of people dancing maniacally, unable to stop themselves until they collapse from exhaustion. WTF?

There's an awful lot of strange stuff in history. If you like this you'll enjoy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_Popular_Delusion... (1841)

It even has a section on memes, entitled "Popular follies of great cities".

From the Wikipedia link, description of the "Alchemists" chapter:

> The section on alchemysts focuses primarily on efforts to turn base metals into gold. Mackay notes that many of these practitioners were themselves deluded, convinced that these feats could be performed if they discovered the correct old recipe or stumbled upon the right combination of ingredients. Although alchemists gained money from their sponsors, mainly noblemen, he notes that the belief in alchemy by sponsors could be hazardous to its practitioners, as it wasn't rare for an unscrupulous noble to imprison a supposed alchemist until he could produce gold.

It totally doesn't sound like the startup ecosystem. ;).

Thanks. I read MacKay's book many years ago. Its accounts are not always historically accurate or well-documented, but it's a great read -- particularly its descriptions of Tulip Mania, the South Sea Bubble, and the Mississippi Bubble.

That said, I still can't quite fathom how or why a crowd of human beings will suddenly burst into dance, and do it until their bodies collapse from exhaustion.

Have you ever just ran until you couldn't run anymore, for reasons other than physical activity itself? There's a point at which you feel you could go further, and in fact know you can, but you choose to stop because the discomfort and exhaustion at that point outweighs the purpose of the run. I can imagine and speculate this is what is meant. The dancers exhausted the point of the dance, and then would fall to the ground for quickest relief, just as you might throw yourself onto a bench after a spontaneous, excess-driven sprint.

> It can be transmitted by reading about it too.

uh oh.

At first, I thought it was a joke or a fake post, especially with: "music was often played while participants danced, as that was believed to be an effective remedy" but "music encouraged others to join in however, and thus effectively made things worse". I'd assume that music would encourage dancing, but perhaps that was not the norm during those days.

There is a certain logic to playing music. They did not know what would help the infected, but they certainly did know what would help everybody else:

Seeing a crowd flailing around to music is much less creepy than seeing a crowd flailing around to silence.

Maybe they tried to play something difficult to dance to, or something timed to mis-match the dancers' cadence?

> In Italy, a similar phenomenon was tarantism, in which the victims were said to have been poisoned by a tarantula or scorpion. Its earliest known outbreak was in the 13th century, and the only antidote known was to dance to particular music to separate the venom from the blood.

Perhaps it was something similar to this. It sounds like they were shooting in the dark with various different "antidotes".

If you really want to, you can find a way to dance even to "Take five", so in not sure what they could try to achieve.

I always thought that this D&D Spell was silly, but maybe it was based on this "Dancing Mania":


> The subject feels an undeniable urge to dance and begins doing so, complete with foot shuffling and tapping. The spell effect makes it impossible for the subject to do anything other than caper and prance in place. The effect imposes a –4 penalty to Armor Class and a –10 penalty on Reflex saves, and it negates any AC bonus granted by a shield the target holds. The dancing subject provokes attacks of opportunity each round on its turn. A successful Will save reduces the duration of this effect to 1 round.

For those who haven't played D&D: a level 8 spell is outrageously powerful. Resurrection is a level 7 spell (restoring life to a dead person, even if their body has been mutilated). While "Raise Dead" is a level 5 spell (Restoring life to a dead person, so long as their body hasn't been mutilated). Teleportation across hundreds of miles is accomplished at level 5 spell level. Indeed, "Limited Wish" is a level 7 spell.

So level 8 spells are SERIOUSLY powerful magic. A level of spellcasting that is beyond the abilities of most players, and is basically reserved for the end of very long campaigns.

So "force a guy to dance" has always been silly IMO. But the thought of historical accuracy with regards to "Dancing Mania" has changed my opinion. It would be downright terrifying if fellow villagers suddenly were forced to dance, seemingly unconsciously.

Sounds fucking lit!

Perhaps someone was just throwing down a really slick bassline.

Sounds like a rave.

Not really, at a rave they don't die unless it is in exceptional cases.

Every now and then dancing mania article pops out here or there and every time I'm reading it I wonder how much of it is exaggerated after telling and retelling this stories or even as a warning of sorts that such 'dirty', spontaneous rave may be deadly so should not be performed by a righteous christian (considering that it happened mainly in Europe between 7th and 17th century)

So basically a medieval version of Footloose? "Dancing is the work of the devil. It will bring great evils upon our town and our people!"

But sometimes if the party is really good you puke.

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