The Dancing Plague: How Hundreds of People in France Once Danced Themselves to Exhaustion for No Reason

The Dancing Plague: How Hundreds of People in France Once Danced Themselves to Exhaustion for No Reason

Sounds like a rave? Well, it was kind, of. Except it happened way before electricity and strobe lights, and it took place on the dirt streets of Europe, hundreds of year ago.

It all started one fine day in 1518, in Strasbourg, France, when a woman named Frau Troffea started dancing in the street.

640px-Dance_at_MolenbeekShe danced for no reason and to no music. And she started and she couldn’t stop.

It’s such a strange story that it has to be told.

History has it that Frau Troffea danced for somewhere between 4 to 6 days non-stop. She drew in a crowd and by the end of her disco week, 34 other dancers had joined her.

The local people kept on dancing, and within a month, up to 400 dancers were going full-on in the street.

The people were alive and gyrating and couldn’t be stopped- Mardi Gras for the Medieval age!

But not all was a celebration. Some people danced so much that they died of heart attacks, strokes or even sheer exhaustion as their bodies collapsed from the party.

Sound unbelievable? It is- but history books, and paintings from the era claim that it definitely happened.

Why did it happen? Some historians guess that the people danced themselves to death because the dancing plague was a social disease. It was possibly related to stress-induced psychosis.

640px-Pieter_Bruegel_de_Oude_-_De_dans_der_bruid_(Antwerpen)Starvation had hit that area of Europe hard, and many people had already died or been reduced to begging in the streets.

There were a lot of diseases like smallpox and syphilis around, and the stress of living on the edge all the time and not knowing when your time was up may have become too much for people to handle.

And so they danced. Like mad. For a month.

A dancing plague: the world’s happiest, yet dangerous, mass psychological illness.

Or, maybe they’d all just found a natural form of ecstasy. Maybe the social revolution of the 60’s actually began back in the 1500s.

Anyways, the dancing plague of 1518 was a social disease and phenomenon that has yet to be explained with solid reason. Kind of like when every kid starts needing those stuffed animals with big sparkly round eyes, but more intriguing. And definitely more sweaty.

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