Tuesday, March 03, 2009

It makes you feel like dancing

From the rather unpromising terrain of the medical effects of the economic crisis the Irish Times has unearthed a fascinating bit of Strasbourg history:

Writing recently in the Lancet, US medical historian John Waller describes episodes of unstoppable dancing in the streets in what seems to have been mass hysteria.

The largest recorded outbreak was in Strasbourg in 1518. Involving about 400 people, at one point the fevered dancing claimed the lives of some 15 people a day, such was the intensity of their dancing in high summer temperatures.

Perhaps dancing is too refined a description. Those afflicted writhed in pain, screamed for help and begged for mercy in a clearly involuntary act of mass movement.

Apparently, the hysteria was likely the result of a combination of pre-existing beliefs in a type of curse favoured by the local river gods, and collective stress over an upsurge of disease and famine. The article is worth reading, and not only because it explains the popularity of the seizure-combating St Vitus around these parts.

So far, there has been no return of this illness to the city, though I can't be responsible for what I do when ABBA comes on my iPod.

Apparently, this footage is from King Gustav of Sweden's wedding reception. Yes, ABBA dressed as 18th century royalty for the occasion. Those kids were totally punk.

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