We are told that
Miriam the sister of Moses, and all the women of Israel celebrated
the destruction of the Egyptians with timbrals and dances.
This would be about 1,500 years before the birth of Christ.
The Greeks amused themselves by dancing the "Armed
dance" (Pyrrhic) before the walls of Troy during the
memorable siege from 1184 to 1194, B.C. King David, of Israel,
danced before all the people B.C. 1050; and 1000 B.C.,
Solomon wrote, "there is a time to weep and a time to
laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." Lycurgus,
the great Spartan law-giver, about 323 B.C., framed a law
which made it imperative that the Spartan youth should be
trained in a military dance from the seventh year of age.
Christ also speaks of the elder brother of the Prodigal Sonhearing
music and dancing.
Religeous Dance Notes:
1) "the dark ages" from
the end of the fifth century to the end of the eleventh, the
religious dances being abolished and the dances for pleasure
prohibited, the fantastic dances were invented. It was the
general belief that the sun danced on the day of Passover
and the witches danced on the Sabbath . Finally the death
dance was invented. At first it was in carnival season, when
masqueraders representing Death took the privilege of dancing
with those whom they met, to the great horror of the latter.
Then followed the abominable idea of executing these dances
in the cemeteries in honor of the dead. This horrible exercise
of devotion was accompanied by the recitation of mournful
2) Scaliger, the Italian scholar
famous for his researches into Greek and Italian literature,
and who so astonished Charles V . by his powers of dancing,
declared that the bishops were called "præsules"
because they led the dance on feast days.
3) For many years dancing flourished
in the Christian church, till it was finally discredited with
the Agapé feast, and sundry other observances, at the
close of the fourth century. After this it became so strongly
disapproved of, that St. Augustine is said to have remarked
Melius est fodere quam saltare . "It is better to dig
than to dance," and some centuries later, the Albigenses
and the Waldenses , two religious sects in the South of France
, made a special point in their tenets to rage against it,
and called it the "Devil's procession."
4) Another extraordinary form of
religious ceremony was the devil-dance of the Veddahs , similar
to the whirling dervishes , who were once a leading race in
Ceylon . This dance, which was the equivalent of a spoken
incantation, was performed as follows: A tripod, on which
were offerings of eatables, was placed on the ground, and
before a concourse of people, the priest or devil-dancer proceeded
to dance round it, getting more and more violent in his movements,
till he fell into a sort of paroxysm, in which state he was
supposed to receive from the gods the information required.
5) In many ancient hieroglyphics
and paintings, it was customary to have professional dancers
at feasts. These were called "Almehs,"
(dancing Girls) and they are generally depicted waving small
branches or beating tambourines while they danced, singing
the refrain, "Make a good day, make a good day. Life
only lasts for a moment. Make a good day." Which is the
same idea, it will be noticed, as that of the feasters in
the Bible, who said, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow
6) Ancient Egyptians, that is,
that of the higher classes themselves never seemed to have
indulged in dancing, but always employed others to dance before
them, so that social dancing, as we understand it now, was
practically non-existent. And therefore, the dancing of Miriam,
the sister of Moses, at the passage of the Red Sea , might
have been one more instance of the complete subjugation that
the Israelites had undergone whilst with the Egyptians, inasmuch
as it showed an intimate acquaintance with the manners and
customs of the lower classes.
7) King David , of Israel, danced
before all the people B.C. 1050; and 1000 B.C., Solomon wrote,
"there is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time
to mourn and a time to dance."
8) Lycurgus , the great Spartan
law-giver, about 323 B.C., framed a law which made it imperative
that the Spartan youth should be trained in a military dance
(Pyrric Dance ) from the seventh year of age. records of a
dance performed by noble Spartan maidens to the goddess Artemis
Karyatis. There are records of a dance performed by noble
Spartan maidens to the goddess "Artemis Karyatis."
9) Christ also speaks of the elder
brother of the Prodigal Son hearing music and dancing.