Tanz und WahnSinn / Dance and ChoreoMania


table of contents

Abstracts and additional visual and audiovisual material on this website:

I. Enthusiasmus und Ekstase: Historische, kritische und theoretische Perspektiven zur Geschichte des Wahns im Tanz // Enthusiasm and Ecstasy: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perceptions on the History of Mania in Dance

Kélina Gotman
Chorea Minor, Chorea Major, Choreomania: Entangled Medical and Colonial Histories


Kélina Gotman

Chorea Minor, Chorea Major, Choreomania: Entangled Medical and Colonial Histories

This chapter argues that “choreomania” emerged in the nineteenth century as a medical term denoting social contagion and imitation among medieval dancers and a range of European and colonial subjects, observed dancing, swooning, and jerking their bodies in a wide variety of ways. But the heterogeneity of the events described as “choreomania” (or “St. Vitus’s Dance”) prompts me to argue that a comparative mode of thinking about health and disease popular in the nineteenth century medical world created a false sense of universality and symptomatological unity, to produce the idea that these were variations on a singular condition: a “dancing mania.” This chapter examines the history of the dancing mania (or “choreomania”) diagnosis in particular through the writing of J. F. C. Hecker, the German physician and historian of medicine whose essay, “Tanzwuth” (1832), translated into English as “The Dancing Mania” in a definitive edition in 1859, set the discourse on dance manias squarely in line with theories of social contagion and historical epidemiology. His comparative mode of historical analysis, drawing from cases of collective and dance-like jerking, convulsions and shaking movements from all over the world, was popularized in writings by the pioneer French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot and a number of his students, who spread and transformed these ideas throughout the colonial medical world. While the status of these events as types of disease (or “dance”) remains inconclusive, their narrative histories in the medical literature offer insight into concepts of health and disease, culture, movement and social change at a turning point in the history of modernity.


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Herausgeberin und Herausgeber / editors
Zu den Autorinnen und Autoren /authors
Bildnachweis / list of illustrations


(c) 2011 Johannes Birringer & Josephine Fenger, editors

Leipzig: Henschel Verlag, 2011.paperback,€ 19.90, ISBN-10: 3894877103

This book project is supported by

Gesellschaft für Tanzforschung (GTF)

For the publisher's announcement, click here