The Dancing Plague: joining The Ashes Collective

On Saturday the 10th of January (2015) was a showing of the first showing of The Dancing Plague by The Ashes Dance Collective. It was platformed at Resolution in The Place theatre venue in London. This piece (as the title suggests) is based on the dancing plague of 1518. This recorded event was considered a type of plague because, like an epidemic, it spread through and affected many in a physically (and arguably psychologically) manner – in fact many died from it. Accounts of this dancing plague suggest a variety of causalities for this phenomena, of which the source seems to be financial or religious reasons. Here dance, which is ordinarily associated with positivity: personal expression, release, and alternated and useful states of consciousness became a symbol of hardship, pain, guilt and death. It is written that the dancing plague began with a woman named Frau Troffeau. Who, in an apparently inspired moment (of madness?), took to the streets and danced…and didn’t stop. People, and more people followed suit, they kept dancing regardless of physical and mental sacrifice. The spectacle of Frau Troffeau, to those that followed, was attractive, for reasons that seem implausible, but they were influenced to join her in constant movement that may have been a trance. Opinions are that Frau’s outbreak into constant dance movement may have been: a gesture to spite her husband (who didn’t like dancing), the result of a vengeful saint, a favour for (advertisement of) a saint, divine punishment, a mental break-down as a result of extreme poverty and/or suppression.

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