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The Dance

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Alma Tadema, The Pyrrhic Dance
Alma Tadema, The Pyrrhic Dance

One of the works by Lucian of Samosata, The Dance, is devoted entirely to this entertainment. Nothing more joyful, and yet not well perceived by everyone. Already at the outset, an accusation was made against the dances and the dance itself1.

The arguments raised in favour of dancing indicated their antiquity and appreciation in the eyes of deities. Many nations associated dancing with worship or participation in hostilities (Indians, Aethiops). In Hesiod, we see dancing muses. The philosopher Socrates expressed a desire to learn to dance2. Finally, dance was added to public competitions3. The author mentions two forms of the dance routine: tick and cranes.

The dancers were expected to be educated, i.e. a minimum knowledge of myths and the ability to play the entire spectrum of instruments. Mimic dancers were referred to as philosophers (χειρίσοφος, wise-armed).

The Romans, however, were not very tolerant of dance. Cicero expressed a rather harsh opinion: Almost nobody dances sober, unless, of course, he is mad4. Also, Horace saw a dance among those who were well-trained with wine5. The only dance that was recognized was the military pyrriche. The rest, unfortunately, were morally reprehensible, especially because of their connections with theatre and obscene performances. Hence, dancers and dancers were treated as prostitutes6.

Author: Waldemar Owczarczak
Footnotes
  1. Lucian, The Dance 1
  2. Xenophon, Symposium II.15, 16
  3. The Olympics in Naples in the 2 CE.
  4. Cicero, Pro Murena, 13.8
  5. Sat. II/1:24
  6. Dariusz Słapek, Sport i widowiska w świecie antycznym, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego 2008, s. 597

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