Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/774

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

Dance." "They will dance," says one witness, "from Friday afternoon till sundown on Sunday. They keep going round in one direction until they become so dizzy that they can scarcely stand, then turn and go in the other direction, and keep it up until they swoon from exhaustion. That is what they strive to do, for while they are in a swoon they think they see and talk with the new Christ." Now, observe: "At the end of the dance they have a grand feast, the revel lasting all Sunday night."[1]

Thus far little has been said about the different movements and steps of ancient dances. What the figures "woven paces and waving hands" in early Greek dances were, no one can say with exactness. The earliest description of dancing which we can reproduce is the account of the dance on the shield of Achilles, which bore the sculptured scene

"Of youths and maidens bounding hand in hand.

Now all at once they rise, at once descend,
With well-taught feet; now shape in oblique ways
Confus'dly regular the moving maze;
Now forth at once, too swift for sight, they spring,
And undistinguished blend the flying ring:
So whirls a wheel in giddy circle tost,
And rapid as it runs the single spokes are lost."

Here we have the simplest kind of dancing. Youths and maidens take one another by the hand, and spin round and round like a potter's wheel. This form of Homeric Greek dance in the dance of Bacchus is known as the dithyramb. It survives to the present day in the "jiggering" of children, who join hands and prance around in a circle.

Later on, the Greeks divided dances into round and square. Their round dances—the word "round" meaning something more than our "round"—were dances of pleasure and revelry. Their square dances were military and dramatic. The Spartans drilled their men in Pyrrhic dance to the ringing sound of spear and shield. The square dances of the ancients required some art and some practice, while little of either was necessary in their round dances.

The real charm of true dancing consists rather in a graceful swaying of the body and arms than in violent movements and complicated steps. Take, for example, the dances performed by the Nautch girls—the most enchanting and ravishing dancers in the world. In their dances you see no springs, no vehement pirouettes, no violent sawing of the arms, no painful contortions

  1. Journal of American Folk Lore, March, 1891.