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Posts Tagged ‘danse macabre’

Graveyard Club – The Unsettlers

Well the graveyard ain’t no place for dancing

and it ain’t no place for sweet romance

And if you try to make a tombstone for your bed

sweet little lady might wind up dead

Probably the sort of music you’d hear at the circus in Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Here is a live version on YouTube in case you can’t open the CBC link outside of Canada.

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What could possibly be more exciting than a combination of danse macabre and insects?

I’m not quite sure what internet rabbit hole led me to this link, but it’s super eerie: artist Tessa Farmer combines dead insects with tiny skeleton sculptures to create morbid little danses macabres. The winged skeletons are evil dead fairies, and they dance through all her work, tormenting bees and dragonflies and sometimes larger fare like hedgehogs. Delightful!

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More death and dancing

A few months ago I posted about the danse macabre, dance as a metaphor for death. I’ve been thinking recently (maybe it has something to do with a certain Oscar-winning ballet movie) about the related idea of dancing oneself to death. It’s not exactly a pervasive trope, but I can think of a few examples offhand, and they make an interesting juxtaposition.

Appropriately, they both involve ballet. First is Giselle, the tale of a young peasant girl who falls in love with what she takes for a huntsman but who is really a prince out for a romp in the woods before he gets hitched. She finds out and dies of a broken heart, then spends Act II trying to prevent the object of her doomed affection from being killed by the Wilis, ghosts of similarly jilted young women who murder men by forcing them to dance themselves to death. (Can I just say  how much I want Tim Burton to make this into a movie? It would be totally anti-feminist but just picture Helena Bonham Carter as the queen of the Wilis!)

The next one is the “anti-ballet” Rite of Spring. (If you’ve never heard the music, stop whatever you’re doing and listen to it right now. And if you think of dinosaurs, raise a glass to Walt Disney.) Though later Stravinsky wished the piece to be interpreted more as an abstraction of Russian pagan folk tunes, he noted one specific image: “…the wise elders are seated in a circle and are observing the dance before death of the girl whom they are offering as a sacrifice…” (perhaps this quote doesn’t make it clear, but the girl specifically dances to death.)

It’s interesting that these ballets share not only a rural/pagan element, but also direct ties to Russian folklore. I’m unfortunately not well versed in the latter, but perhaps this is a theme? If anyone has any more examples, Russian or otherwise, I’d love to hear of them. Note also the difference from the danse macabre, which emphasizes the universality of death; here death singles out and is vindictive.

Since this has been a rather musical post, it’s fitting that a bit of searching turned up a Canadian indie band called “Dance Yourself to Death”. Here’s some of their tunes—not sure if they will play outside of Canada.

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I am fascinated by the ways different cultures talk about and cope with death, partly because, cliches about taxes aside, death is the one true universal (except, perhaps, shit, but that’s harder to personify). One of my favourite western* death imagery traditions is the danse macabre, a mediaeval trope in which death is depicted as a dance that we all must someday join. And today, for no apparent reason, I feel like discussing this sort of imagery and its more recent manifestations. (more…)

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Enjoy! (video-filled linkdump after the break, and a rambling post on the danse macabre possibly to come.)

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