Early Dance

Early dance, like early music, is extremely difficult to authenticate. Unlike other art forms, it leaves no traces.Seen once or twice by probably biased “civilized” persons, it is difficult to describe accurately. Only one thing can be said wit any certainty and that is that it did exist.

Almost all primitive cultures have dance in some form or another, most commonly circle or line dances. Whether dances are sexually segregated or not varies from culture to culture. Dances not only have entertainment value, but often have ritual and religious significance as well. Think for a moment about the American Indian Though lacking in iron and the use of the wheel, they probably resembled the wandering tribes of the European Migration Period (200-600). The had war dances, dances for weather, to impress a wife, as coming of age ceremonies, to placate the spirits, and so on.

One of the few areas we do have some information on is that of the early Celtic Iberia (modern Spain). Vase paintings show women apparently dancing a line dance similar to the Mediterranean grape-vine dance. Men are shown fighting to the tune of a double-pipe and tuba, probably a magic dance or ceremonial funeral games. Livy said the Iberians went into battle leaping in time to monorhythmic music and singing martial songs. They danced at a funeral pyre with arm an body movements. This same kind of dance was frequently performed by the Hispani and the Lusitanians. Other hints include the nude dancing figures from Nevy-en-Sullias (Roman Gaul). And who could forget the dancing Maenads of the Bacchanalic rites?

Without much to go on, we are trying to collect references to or adaptations of early dance. If any of our readers have information on early dance, we would love to hear from you. The information will be compiled and published in a future issue of Early Period.

Back to Early Period #3 | Back to Early Period Index | Back to PastTimes