Wednesday, November 26, 2008
When did we start putting on our dancing shoes?
From the beginning of recorded history man seems to have enjoyed dancing, first by themselves, then with other men, and eventually and sensibly, with women. The earliest dances were celebratory, probably to enhance fertility, to honour a victory in battle, or rejoice in a bountiful harvest. Social dancing, as we understand it, became a feature of European life in the late twelfth century. Distinctly the pastime of nobility it featured only on special occasions.
It took until a hundred and fifty years ago to become a popular pastime with the masses which required no audience, commemorative occasion or training. Subsequent dance crazes brought with it its own language and many of our current colloquialisms and idioms have originated from this source. From antiquity dance was associated with amatory and sexual manifestations.
The association is manifest in ancient temple worship, in Greece, in the Middle East and in India. Ancient Greek comedy frequently commented on the swaying and writhing of the female body as an erotic excitation and was referred to as periproctian.
The Awalim (Belly Dancers) were Egyptian dancing girls who would combine their womanly charms with prostitution. In the early centuries of the Roman Empire dancing was frowned upon especially for women because it was considered an erotic and licentious inducement.
Later Ovid (43 BC – AD 17/18) recommended dancing to all girls who were in love and dancing has remained a major part of courtship ever since.