Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Dancing Mania ~ When People Couldn't Stop

I thought you might like to hear about an interesting condition that came over people over several hundred years, from the 14th to the 17th century. It was called the dancing mania. This mania affected thousands of people over the centuries, though a few seemed to stand out more. So what is dancing mania? It is just that! People danced. But we're not talking going to a party or a dance hall for a few hours with friends. These people danced and didn't seem to be able to stop.

The Strasbourg dancing mania of 1518 caught my attention and had me digging in a little deeper into the outbreak which was in the Holy Roman Empire. The first large mania occurred in the mainland of Europe in 1374 also in the Holy Roman Empire of Aachen. Seven dancing mania events have been documented during the Medieval time period.

The 1374 outbreak is documented but not a lot of information is out there. However, the Strasbourg dancing mania has a few interesting tidbits. As in so much history that is over five hundred years old there are different accounts and I can't actually substantiate which is correct and which is not. What the all seem to agree on that a single woman in Strasbourg name Frau Troffea started dancing zealously until she collapsed from extreme exhaustion. The next day she got up and began again. Others joined in, mostly young women and within a week there were forty dancers. The dancing didn't die down. These people danced for days on end and didn't seem to be able to stop.

By Pieter Brueghel the Elder - Pieter Bruegel d. Ä. - Das gesamte graphische Werk. Wien-München: Schroll [o. J.], Abb. Nr. 124 (Scan durch H.-P.Haack, Leipzig), Public Domain,
Because of the long period of time dancing, it drew the attention of the bishop and the magistrate of Strasbourg and eventually doctors intervened putting some in the hospital. Some of the leaders decided that perhaps having dance halls, musicians, and dance instructors would help, but to their dismay that only made the problem worse and as many as four hundred were struck with the dance fever. Many ended up dying from exhaustion, stoke, or heart attacks.

It was said that the city was in famine and the plague had struck. Up to 15 people died a day from the plague or starvation. Some believe that the stress could have caused this phenomenon that affected the masses. The people of this area were highly superstitious.

Interestingly, all the outbreaks occurred along the Rhine and Moselle rivers--though all the outbreaks had rivers the climates and the food grown to eat where much different. No real cause has ever been determined, just assumptions and guesses. Have you ever heard of The Dancing Mania? What are your thoughts as to the cause? I'd love to hear?
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Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.


  1. Now that is strange!!! Thanks for the interesting post, Debbie Lynne. Hope you and your family are well.

    1. Thanks for coming by, Connie. It was something my author brain would never have thought up! And if I had people wouldn't have believed it could happen. LOL. Stay safe!