Dance Till You Drop
Dance till you drop took on a whole new meaning in the town of Strasbourg. In 1518 its people were afflicted with one of the most bizarre plagues – a dancing mania that lasted three months. And yes, the phenomenon is what it sounds like!
A Unique Dance
The day started off like it always did for the Strasbourg residents until a woman named Frau Troffea began to jive in the town streets. Passers-by applauded her energy and moves. She seemed to be in high spirits, dancing her heart out without musical accompaniments. But something was amiss. Soon, it was clear that this was no ordinary performance. Frau Troffea danced uncontrollably – her limbs as if independent from her body for six days straight! She continued dancing morning, afternoon, and night.
The laughter stopped when the manic dancing began to spread like an illness. Within a week, 34 other people joined her. By the end of the month, 400 people were busting a move – and still without music or instruments. At least 15 people died daily from heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion. After consulting with experts, the royals of Strasbourg declared mania a natural disease caused by “hot blood.” They instructed officials to build a giant stage to help people really let loose and release the “mania” from their systems. They even invited musicians. The plan was a disaster since the music and entertainment only encouraged more people to join the dancing.
Loosing Their Mind
Countless people died in three months when the dancing stopped just as suddenly as it had begun. The Dancing Plague is one of several inexplicable manias to affect towns in Europe at the time. Was it an illness? A severe form of peer pressure? Historians remain divided. But all evidence points to the dancing mania as a bizarre cultural contagion – a sort of mass hysteria when people wanted to dance and lose their minds. Why? Since simply existing was just overwhelming! Can we blame them?