Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Dancing, a natural expression of various emotions, found even among some species of birds. In mankind this natural movement early became specialised into expression of particular emotions, and accompanied with mimicry. Many savages work up their courage for battle by elaborate dancing and imitation of fighting. From an expression of feeling it naturally passes into one of desire, and then into a supposed means of attaining the end desired. Thus, when buffaloes were scarce, the Mandan Indians, who hunted them, "danced buffalo," i.e. dressed up as buffaloes and danced, pretending at times to fall as if shot, while others came forward and skinned them. In 1890-91 "ghost dancing," founded on misunderstood scraps of Christian teaching as to the Day of Judgment. was resorted to by the North American Indians to hasten the "restitution of all things," and nearly caused a general Indian revolt. "On the lower levels of culture," says Mr. Tylor, "men dance to express their feelings and wishes." Thus, dancing is commonly an act of worship, as in ancient Greece and Egypt and in the case of the Salii at Rome. Even King David danced before the Ark, and wherever under Christianity the control of emotion in worship has been much weakened, dancing has reappeared, as in the "dancing mania" of the Middle Ages, and with the Shakers of America. In Seville cathedral there is a periodical dance of choristers before the high altar, probably a survival of paganism. Greek and Roman civilisation tended to suppress the emotions, and non-religious dancing was left to professionals, usually slave girls. "Hardly any one dances when sober," says Cicero, "unless he is mad." In the later Middle Ages stately and formal dances, doubtless adopted from rustic survivals of the religious dances of pre-Christian Europe, were in vogue among high society, and continued so until the early part of this century. Chiefly owing to the contact of French officers with German and Russian society during Napoleon's wars, they were gradually expelled by the more rapid and exciting dances, of which the waltz is the type, and which were thought highly improper on their first introduction.