Dancing Mania (Choreomania)

Dancing mania is also known as “choreomania” (“choros” is a Greek word which means dance) which was coined by Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, alchemist, and astrologer. Other terms include epidemic dancing, epidemic chorea, St. Vitus’s Dance, and St. John’s Dance (since the condition was thought to be a curse by the saints). This was a phenomenon characterized by uncontrollable dancing until collapsing due to exhaustion. It affected groups of people in Europe from the 7th until the 17th century. Some of the reported incidents include 18 peasants who disturbed a Christmas eve service when they sang and danced around a church in Bernburg in the 1020s, and a group of children who jumped and danced from Erfurt all the way to Arnstadt in 1237. One of the most remarkable outbreaks was initiated by Frau Troffea who danced in the street and was joined by 33 others within four days which progressed to 400 dancing people within a month; a number of them died due to heart attack.

One of the patterns that was observed indicated that the outbreaks often occurred during times of difficulties such as the Black Plague which caused millions of deaths in the 14th century. Hence, some theorize that the mania was a response to various hardships. Others identified it as a form of mass hysteria in which a group of individuals manifest strange fits due to social influence.

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