The psychologist Wolfgang Kohler, for six years in charge of this laboratory, also maintained in his reports to the Prussian Academy of Science the astonishing fact that the anthropoid apes dance.
He tells of a female chimpanzee, who, when he once ap- peared unexpectedly, began to hop first on one leg, then on the other, in a strangely excited manner. Kohler further observed a rapid whirling with arms stretched out horizontally. Their frolicking and romping quiets down as they begin to circle about, using the post as a pivot.
One after another the rest of the animals appear, join the circle, and finally the whole group, one behind another, is marching in orderly fashion around the post. Now their movements change quickly. They are no longer walk- ing but trotting. Stamping with one foot and putting the other down hghtly, they beat out what approaches a distinct rhythm, with each of them tending to keep step with the rest. All the animals appear to take a keen delight in this primitive round dance.
Every now and then there are variations. Once I saw one animal, snapping comically at the one behind, walk backwards in the circle. Not infrequently one of them would whirl as he marched about with the rest. When two posts or boxes stand close to each other, they like to use these as a center, and in this case the ring dance around both takes the form of an ellipse.
In these dances the chimpanzee likes to bedeck his body with all sorts of things, especially strings, vines, and rags that dangle and swing in the air as he moves about. But we know today that the Guarani, at least, have ecstatic gourd-rattling dances, which surely do not appear to have been recently adopted. Often the apparent absence of dance may be accounted for if we remember that the dances are too sacred to be exhibited or even mentioned to a casual traveler who may be regarded with mistrust; or that, as is often the case, dancing is limited to the winter months.
Nevertheless, even trustworthy investigators report that there are a few danceless peoples: the dwarfs of the Malaccan forests, the Kenta and Bateke, and the remnants of the oldest inhabitants of Indonesia, the Redan-Kubu of Sumatra and the Toala of Celebes.
Subsisting on the fruits they can find and the animals they can capture, they eke out their existence in the forest without a thought beyond the needs of the day and the propagation of their kind. Social life, play, festival, and music are lacking, as well as a belief in and conception of higher powers.
Still we must not allow ourselves to be led to the hasty conclusion that because the anthropoid apes dance, man must have been destined by nature from the very beginning to dance. What we are concerned with here can hardly be regarded too seriously. If the dance, inherited from brutish ancestors, lives in all mankind as a necessary motor-rhythmic expression of excess energy and of the joy of living, then it is only of sHght importance for anthropologists and social historians.
If it is es- tablished, however, that an inherited predisposition develops in many ways in the different groups of man and in its force and direction is re- lated to other phenomena of civilization, the history of the dance will then be of great importance for the study of mankind. Such a history must necessarily begin with purely physiological facts, with the movements themselves.
But we must not be guided by the separate movements of the dance. For the dance is not composed of isolated movements. The whole make-up of an individual and his central motor innervation first determine what each part of the body is to do. For this reason we shall start with a complete description of two early dances, one of them a dance of a remote branch of the Vedda in Ceylon, the other of the Andamanese.
Both these peoples are still in the proto- lithic stage of development, and hence are reckoned with the most primitive of the races of man. They form a circle around an arrow stuck into the ground, and do not touch one another as they move slowly around the arrow. Each one now executes strange movements, of which we will first observe those of the legs. Each dancer makes a turn to the left and comes to a stop on his right leg.
He pushes his left leg forward in time convulsively and moves his body backwards. Continuing thus to make these half-turns and using now the leg which he has just moved as a support after the half-turn, the dancer circles slowly backwards around the arrow. In making his turns the dancer pays no attention to the one next to him; his only goal is to get around the arrow in the prescribed man- ner.
Thus the dancers do not make exactly the same movements at the same moment. If one dancer, for example, turns on his left leg at the same time that his neighbor is turning on his right, it often happens that they incline now their heads, now their backs toward each other, though to be sure they do not take directly confronting positions. While the body is making the turn, they are svmng around and at the end of the half-turn they are still swinging vigorously.
Then after the completion of the half-turn, the dancers whack their bellies with their hands as a substitute for musical instru- ments. Their heads, thrown backwards at the end of each half-turn, are swung down forwards in the direction of the dance movement, just as the arms are flung out to the side while the turn is being made. We are not certain whether they dance both clockwise and counter-clock- wise.
The above is a description of a dance moving counter-clockwise. As the dancers howl and pant a monotonous song and keep time with it, they work themselves in this way into a state of extreme nervous excite- ment. Sweat streams over their bodies.
They slap their bellies more and more vigorously and the noise becomes continually louder. Then after a time one after another of them falls to the ground exhausted.
Suddenly they all rise at once and the dance is at an end. The ever increasing excitement of these people dripping with sweat, finally their falling to the ground, and their convulsive trembling, as they lie there stretched out on their backs; all of this together with the howling which grows ever louder and more spasmodic, excites the spectator, too, and he must needs check himself from interrupting the wild dance before it has reached its convulsive end.
And now let us take as our second example an ancient dance of the Andamanese. Each dancer circles in whatever direction and executes whatever movements he pleases regardless of the others, although he always keeps strictly in time with the music. He hops lightly on his right foot, raises his left, lowers it bowing, then hops again on his right foot. The arms are stretched forward shoulder high and both thumbs and pointer fingers are hooked— a motif that the Greeks at some ' time learned from the Persians.
With this movement and posture they dance a short while in one place, then move on around the circle. Now and then a dancer adds of his own accord another variety of step to his dance. In comparing these two dances we may have overlooked a few unim- portant details of the movements. But we cannot fail to recognize this striking phenomenon: on the one hand, among the Vedda, the most difficult contortion and distortion; on the other hand, on the Andaman Islands, balance, measured action of the tightener and the bending mus- cles, termination, according to set rules, of the progression of stepping, sliding, hopping, and flexing.
There it is an interruption, here a quicken- ing of the ordinary motor activity. There the dancing is tortured, joy- less; here it is liberating and joyful. If an Andamanese is asked why he dances, his reply is that it gives him pleasure. He dances after a successful hunt — never when the day has brought disappointments. The distinction is so great that in the case of two peoples almost equally primitive it can hardly be ascribed to the level of culture but rather to a difference in natures.
The Andamanese must dance, not so the Vedda. The contrast of dancing and non-dancing peoples becomes clear, the contrast between persons whom every unusual circumstance forces to motor-rhythmic expression and those who labor to arrive at a state of ecstasy through the dance.
In this comparison one further observation should be made: the Andamanese is familiar with animal dances, the Vedda is not. Should the anifnal dances and all imitative, mimetic dances then be asaibed to peoples of the same basic natures.? The African pygmies are decidedly a dancing people. They dance a great deal, in diverse forms and with great variety of movement, which according to one explorer is a pleasant change from the tiresome monot- ony of most of the Negro dances, a statement supported recently by the dancing scenes in the motion picture Congorilla.
As early as the third millennium b. They are so transported in the dance that in the Boer War they could be sur- rounded and shot down in droves while dancing. On the other hand, there are the dwarfs of Malacca: one explorer reports of the Kenta in the primitive forest of Malay that he never saw them dance; the Semang dance, though the men do not take part, and the women scarcely do anything more than move about with their knees and bodies flexed and bent, the upper parts of their arms next to their bodies, the parts below the elbows stretched forward.
This is a very early stage of development. We have an especially fine example of the interrelation of animal dance, dance joy, and dance capacity in the comparison of two Cali- fornia tribes, the Maidu and the Shasta, especially as the dances of both have been described in great detail by one and the same investigator. The Maidu, who also have a whole series of animal dances, have a large group of varied movements: jumping, slowly marking time, stamping, swaying, turning of the trunk, lifting, a sideward pulling and swinging of the arms, waving of branches, swimming, and touching.
It is possible that also the Shasta execute one or more movements which obviously are not to be found in the animal dances. The Shasta, however, perform their dance duties at the consecration of maidens, of women shamans, and at funerals; and in addition, there is a war dance.
No more. Again the conclusion is the same : The peoples influenced by the animal dance have a variety of movements and dance with enthusiasm; those who do not know the animal dance have few movements and show little zest for dancing. The impression is confirmed and strengthened if comparisons are extended further.
Why the result can scarcely be otherwise is clear, so clear that later the relationship will appear as a fundamental truth. There can be no doubt that all peoples are not in hke measure talented in the dance. Every strong impression activates them, forces them to join in doing, to become sympathetic, to imitate, and to re-create.
Beginning with this contrast let us attempt to comprehend and to put into order the many dance movements. Such descriptions are very common. The Chukchi of northeastern Asia jump up and down in time, roll their eyes, and throw themselves to left and right with convulsive movements. There are similar reports of many African dances. The drummers squat in a row and tirelessly beat upon their instruments in sharp rhythm. The dancers within the circle turn about several times, keeping time with the drums by stamping on their heels.
The eyes of the drummers are fixed on the dancers. Suddenly the dancers swing into violent motion. All the parts of their bodies begin to shake, all their muscles play, their shoulder blades roll as if they no longer were a part of their bodies. The drums resound louder and louder. The move- ments of the dancers become wilder and bolder. Their bodies are bathed in sweat from head to foot. Now they stand as though changed to statues. Only the weird jerking of the muscles over their whole body continues.
Then when the excitement has risen to its highest point, they suddenly collapse as if struck by lightning and remain for a time on the ground as though unconscious. After a short while the play begins anew.
In a wide circle the naked figures squat and lie, lighted up by the flickering glow of a fire. Four or five older men walk noise- lessly into the center with spears, bows, and arrows in their hands; the younger men soon join them and arrange themselves in rows, like the spokes of a wheel with the old men in the center; the half-grown boys take places in a circle on the outside. Now the old men in the center begin their monotonous howling; gradually the young men and boys join in and at the same time the entire throng begins to move slowly around the central point.
Soon the pace is quickened and the dancers on the outer edge must make long jumps to keep up with the rest. As they turn the dancers whistle shrilly ; they rattle their weapons and toss them- selves into the air; and the excitement gradually reaches such a point that individual dancers, bathed in sweat, break away from the rest and roll on the ground in wild ecstasy.
This dance and the howling song accompanying it have something so indescribably wild about them that they often give the onlooker gooseflesh. On the Marshall and Gilbert Islands the dancers run and jump with abandon to and fro, throw their bodies as though in con- vulsions, roll their eyes, wave their arms and legs about, shake their hands; the song, accompanied by a drum, is wild and at certain de- moniacal words they all cry out.
The old Malay dances are less wild but just as ecstatic. We know of strangely fantastic night ceremonies in Bali, in which two maidens dance in a charmed sleep, as singers nestle close to one another in a circle and move continually. They either sway right and left in time with the melody, or they shake, as if overcome by a great trembling. But then suddenly they all throw themselves at the same time with a loud outcry to the left in the circle, then again to the right.
Since they have been huddled together so close within the circle, they are now lying on top of one another like a giant flower opened out in full bloom.
The hie of Demons, a recent German talking picture of the island of Bali, had photographs of this dance. All these dances correspond to the description of clonic convulsions —the state of forceful flexion and relaxation of the muscles which may lead to a throwing about of the body in wild paroxysms.
The will has completely or to a certain extent lost control over the parts of tire body; consciousness may likewise completely disappear. This condition is therefore not an activity, but a suffering.
Although such pathogenic dances are limited to certain peoples, they are nevertheless widespread. If we trace very carefully the extent of their diffusion, we have in Asia a triangle, the apex of which is the north- eastern part of the Chukchee peninsula, with the base extending from Ceylon across the Malay archipelago to eastern Micronesia. In addition there are the east and west Bantu tribes in Africa, and in Europe we have examples in ancient Greece, in Bulgaria, among the Slavs, and during the Middle Ages among certain groups in the west and center.
The pic- ture is clear. The convulsive dance is a characteristic of shaman cultures. It makes its appearance where priestly dignity and magic power are in the hands of the witch doctor or the medicine man, where as a result of a peculiar racial tendency or of a cultural influence, religious experience and its cult formation rest solely on the rule of hypnosis. In Bali we find a clear example of the borderline type. Here Buddhism is still merely superimposed on animism and we can often see with great clarity what is underneath.
De Kat Angelino watched a priest in a very ecstatic state go through convulsive ceremonial motions. In the garb of the Buddha priest we find the ecstatic shaman. And in Bali the convulsive dance reaches into the temple. But Hauer in another connection has shown that the North American Indians in general have progressed beyond the frenzy stage. There are, to be sure, also among the Indians traces of a tendency to convulsive dancing.
While the Californias, in general, remain altogether apart from convulsive phenomena, we have one report of dancing frenzy and bleeding mouths, in the dances of the so-called Kuksu worship. This is a cult ceremony, which together with the slit drum was taken over late by the California Wintun when a younger cultural group was absorbed. It is therefore a result of cultural influence.
True; but such an influence presupposes an innate propensity or receptivity. But every people, no mat- ter how primitive, is the result of incalculable interbreeding. Though cultures may be carried to any territories whatsoever, they are in most cases taken over only by those peoples who are predisposed to receive them. In such cases control over certain groups of muscles develops generally from the clonic convulsion. We find weakened convulsive dances most widespread in the territory of the Bantu.
Ceaselessly his necklaces and skirts rustle. For hours at a time his posterior springs up and down over his bent legs. Fidgeting and see- sawing are to such an extent African that one is tempted to designate the Bantu dances in general as fidget dances.
Yet they frequently cross the border line of the pure convulsive dance. At the start the participants generally zigzag to and fro in short steps with their feet dragging, or walk forwards and backwards with short, stamping steps. Soon, when they have become warm, they throw off their light top dress and tie their underdress tighter.
As yet they show no sign of fatigue. On the con- trary, the tempo becomes more lively, the dance wilder and more pas- sionate. From the circle of dancers a skilled artist now steps forth, comes to a stop in the center, and begins to make very convulsive contortions with the upper part of his body, bringing especially his abdominal mus- cles into play.
Then two men break away from the group of dancers, step into the foreground, and dancing toward each other, execute wild and erotic pelvic motions. At the close these two dancers, one playing the part of the woman, carry out highly repulsive love scenes.
The more extreme the portrayal, the greater is the applause of the spectators. Then the same dance scene is executed by two young maidens. All these are the well-known features of the convulsive dance. But they are subordinated to the will, and the dancer does not wait until he collapses to stop danc- ing.
Even the ecstatic shaman of the Malay Islands has learned how to control his frenzy artistically. His fists are clenched lightly and move in time with the music. Gradually his whole body takes up these movements, which become more and more convulsive, more and more automatic; his eyes close and he is transported, as it were. Both the shamans murmur prayers and incantations continually.
Now the witch doctor arises and begins to dance with his eyes closed. The dance is graceful and lively. In his left hand the shaman holds a fan or sword, oddly enough a bow and arrow too, oftentimes. On his left arm he has a bracelet with little bells, by means of which he gives the time to the drummers.
He swings the fan gracefully, makes pleasing movements with his forearm, and dances sometimes toward the sick man, sometimes away from him.
He stamps lightly, with his feet turned at the ankles, his legs bent at the knees. He often crosses his feet, sometimes in front, sometimes behind. Frequently the dance takes the form of a genuine round dance in polka step to the right or left. The drum beats faster, the dance becomes wilder, the contortions of the squatting Junko become more convulsive. Then suddenly the dancer falls to the ground, or at least pretends to do so.
The drummers cease to beat their drums, the witch doctor opens his eyes. No part of the body has been over- looked. Women of the Malay island of Wetar move their hands in time convulsively.
Women dancers of southern Australia make the muscles of their thighs quiver; the Arunta of Central Australia, their thighs, trunks, and hands; the tribes of the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, their heads; the Kiziba of East Africa, the larynx; danc- ing players of India, their lips; and the natives of Yap and Hawaii, center of the hand dances, their fingers.
The really classic example of this type is the trembling and undulatory motion of the trunk: move- ments of the breast and back muscles and the well-known movements of the rectus abdominis, common among the tribes of northern Africa as well as among the Canela of northeastern Brazil. The ab- dominal dance is the art of the old Gaditan dancing girls of whom the poet Martial wrote: Tirelessly the lustful move In gentle tremor eager limbs.
In the Celebes, where the natives recently took the abdominal dance from the Arabs, it is called merrcn or masseri, obviously a form of the Arabian word masft, meaning Egyptian. These locally restricted convulsive-like movements can be again ex- tended. Like a rapidly swung rope which no longer shows each single vibration, but is crossed rather by a wave-like up-and-down motion, the motif of the simple hip or breast vibration grows in the course of the dance into a snake-like motion running through the entire body.
Only the women appear to do this type of dance. Two dance cultures so diametrically opposed as the East African and the Cambodian offer the best examples, and especially the Cambodian show quite clearly their kinship to the old convulsive dances. Right in the midst of a formal mythological dance it may happen that the maiden pauses, relaxes her leg muscles, and trembles with a slow undulatory motion seeming to start at one of her hands, which are held with the palms upwards.
Gently the snake-like movement slides along her arm, passes on to the other shoulder, lifts her breast scarf, goes over to the other arm, and disappears in the fluttering vibration of the other hand.
At this moment her hip is arched. Her abdomen recedes beneath the flood of the heavy glistening folds of silk and metal which stream out over her knees. When she opens her eyelids one can see her eyes roll and turn in her mysterious white face.
In both types of dance the corporal limitations of man are conquered and the subconscious is freed, the difference being that in the inharmonious dances this is accomplished by means of a mortification of the flesh, in the harmonious dances by an exaltation of it, by a release from gravity, by motion upwards and forwards.
The most essential method of achieving the ecstatic is the rhythmic beat of every dance movement. As anyone can testify from his own experience, it is an effective unburdening of the will.
Thus the consciousness of self disappears completely and is lost in the primitive consciousness. Rhythmic motion has become therefore the carrier and creator of almost every ecstatic mood of any significance in human life. Stamping is universal. From the lowest levels of mankind, indeed from the apes, it reaches into the rustic dances of higher cultures and into the round dances of our children.
It represents, to be sure, not only rhythmic motion. A heavy stamping of the leg is a motor expression of exceptional intensity, or a Hght rebounding from the ground an effec- tive levitator in the battle against gravity. Just as universal is the bending of the knee. It appears in two forms, in stationary position and in rhythmic movement. Here too the resilience of the half-loose joint seems to be the essential characteristic.
The squat dance, originally perhaps an animal dance, is still preserved in Frankish, Rhenish, and English folk customs, the low bending of the knee in the Swiss dances. We shall speak later of several other kinds of positions and move- ments, which although not universal are to be found in dances of the most varied motor character.
Although they have these qualities in common, the number and variety of the harmonious dances are so great that one would despair of making a satisfactory survey of them, if it were not that there are two principal types of movements which stand out with impressive clarity and which separate, as we shall see more and more, sexes, peoples, races, and per- sonalities.
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