Dancing is a very basic, if not instinctive human activity. There is rhythm throughout the universe and rhythm inside our bodies. We all dance naked in the womb. The human fetus throbs in time with the beating of the mother's heart. After birth, the baby is nursed by the mother. Psychiatrist, Javit Muller, calls this the "Milk Dance". He says, "The sucking is rhythmic, mother and child move together up and down in a rhythmic way while by another innate reflex act both arms and hands of the child make a pumping movement. In the Far East I experienced several times this rhythmic encounter of mother and baby as a joyous play, full of erotic overtones."
The most natural thing for a mother to do was to breast feed her baby. However, bottle feeding became the only "proper" thing to do because exposure of the breast was so horrible, according to Victorian Christian attitudes. The emotional and physical health of the baby are obviously secondary to Christian moral teachings. Many people are uneasy when they think of babies and mothers having erotic pleasure during nursing.
But in nature, most dances are erotic. Look at the reasons most animals dance. Have you ever been in a park and watched the peacocks mating? The male dances around the female, he stomps his feet, lifts his magnificent tail feathers spreading them wide, then shimmers his body in a rhythmic vibration which makes the feathers bristle. Many birds have elaborate mating dances as do beautiful winged insects like butterflies and moths. Dancing has been observed in most animals, including apes. These were studies by German psychologist Wolfgang Kohler. He notices that, "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". Chimps put things on their bodies--maybe they heard of the recent Supreme Court decision on nude dancing, Barnes vs. Glenn Theatre Inc, in which it appears that the Supreme Court's espouses the idea that nude dancing can be accomplished with clothes on. Maybe the Supreme Court is trying to make monkeys out of all of us. But what is disturbing about the decision is Justice Scalia, writing for the Court, justified the authority for requiring covering because under the Common Law, public nudity was contra bona morse, against good morals. However, under the Common Law, private nudity was also contra bona morse. That is why people in England and the United States took baths in long-johns and slept in gowns.
Dancing in humans has been defined as motion that arises from emotion. But that could also apply to someone blowing his nose after an emotional cry, hardly the same as dance which is an expression of the human body's natural rhythm. The rhythm of the dancer invites the watchers to vibrate in response. This sympathetic vibration transmits the mood the dancer wishes to convey--the transfer of motion to emotion. I would say dance is the transfer of emotion into motion to elicit an emotional response from the viewer. This conveyance is utilized in tribal dances even today. The tribal leader induces a desire to hunt mood by hunting dances, a desire to fight mood by war dances, and, of course, my favorite, a desire to have sex mood by erotic dances. Dances thus attain magical powers, the power to influence and control, to cause a desired thing to happen.
The earliest cave painting that depicts humans dancing, comes from Neolithic times. Obviously dancing requires movement and a static drawing isn't dancing, but anthropologists interpret the positions of the body to be those typical of dance as opposed to people just standing around. This Neolithic cave painting has a group of girls dancing around a young male. He is obviously a male because his large penis is included in detail in the drawing. Which bring up the fact that early man and woman danced nude.
The Earliest dances were circle dances.
Some of the earliest records of dance come from Egypt where our religion, the House of The Goddesses, has its roots. One of the earliest statues of a woman dancing comes from the Nile Valley, Nagada I period, around 4000 B.C. That, incidentally, is interesting, because it indicates that men and women were dancing long before the bible claims they were created. A more detailed painting of musicians and dancing girls comes from the 18th Dynasty 1550-1307 B.C. These girls are wearing decorative belts and necklaces, nothing covers the genitals. The musicians are clothed; the dancers are nude.
There is a note in the Atlas of Ancient Egypt, by Baines and Malek that states, "From about the same times there is a case of prudery, where paintings of nude dancing girls and lightly clothed women in an 18th Dynasty tomb were covered in drapery by a later owner." Those later prudes must have been the ancestors of some of our Supreme Court Justices.
In Egypt, dancing was a form of religious expression. Religion pervaded an Egyptian's whole life. Religious festivals began with processions of priests, priestesses, dancers and musicians moving through the streets. Usually the dances involved mime or dramatic story telling about whatever neter or god or goddess the festival was dedicated to. At the festival of Isis, dancers told the story of Isis' wondering in search of Osiris. In the festival of Osiris, they told of his death and resurrections. The Egyptians had very elaborate funeral rituals, these generally included dances. There are no known secular ancient Egyptian dances.
In the temples of the Goddess, priestesses officiated in the "Dance of the Hours." Each of the twelve hour of the night (and twelve hours of the day) was presided over by a Neter - ruling deity which was represented in the stars. The priestess emulated the Neter and ruled a particular hour, each hour represented a segment of the heavens comprising one and one half a decan. There were 36 decans, each representing 10 degrees of the heaven making 360 degrees to the circle of the sun. Priestesses came to be called Hours, in Persian Houris. In Greek, the word was Horae, from which the derogatory word, whore, meaning a women who has sex with many men was derived.
Temple priestesses in addition to dancing, took men through sexual rituals. I perform the same sexual rituals as those done in the ancient temples as a pathway back to the Divine. These purification rituals enable men and women to reenter the presence of Our Heavenly Father and Mother.
In Babylon, priestess dancers were called harines, from which the Arabs get the word Harem, which, after they killed all the priestesses, came to mean a place where a group of women are kept. The oldest authentic Hebrew folk dance is the Hora, a circle dance probably patterned after the circle dances of the ancient priestess, but without its erotic and religious symbolic meaning. The Hebrew word for "whore" is "zona", which is also the word for prophetess, which indicated the lack of esteem the Jews held for priestesses, but it also acknowledges that priestesses-prophetesses where also sexual. It has only been the trinity religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam which have attempted to take sex and sensuality out of dancing.
The noted psychologist Havelock Ellis commented, "It is interesting to note that Egypt still retains, almost unchanged, through 50 centuries, its traditions, techniques and skill in dancing, the garment forms an almost or quite negligible element of the art."
The body is the important element in Egyptian dancing, not the costume. The belly dancing of Egypt today still mirror many of the ancient temple dance movement, but their religious significance is lost to a people who have been forced to forget their gods and the purpose for their existence. To express religious meaning through dance in Egypt today or anytime in the past 1000 years would be tantamount to asking to be killed by the Moslems.
Egyptian pharaohs also prized African pygmies for their spectacular dancing abilities. When the young pharaoh Pepi II heard that a pygmy dancer was on his way to Egypt he offered the person transporting him a great reward to have him brought safely, noting that Pepi I had done the same thing over 100 years earlier. (This incidentally took place at a time the bible says the flood was going on).
Modern Mid Eastern belly dancing is also thought to be derived from ancient temple dances, but Islam has long since stripped it of any direct association. Most belly dancers have no idea as to what their movements represent, and in many cases, except for the Egyptian dancers, their movements have no ancient religious meaning - none dance nude.
Though most fundamentalist Christians would denounce nude dancing; we can look to the Bible for one of the most famous dances involving exposure of the genitals, male genitals at that. The Bible tells how King David, "danced before the Lord with all his might and David was girded with a linen ephod." An ephod is a clothe, sort of like an apron. When the wearer leaps and jumps, so does the clothe, leaving little to the imagination. David's wife, Michal, got very annoyed and said to him sarcastically, "How glorious was the King of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants as one of the vain fellows, shamelessly uncoverth himself". She obviously did not frequent the Chippendales of the time and had no appreciation of nude dancing even for the Lord. David replied that his dancing was before the Lord, and that if it was good enough for the Lord, tough. If she didn't like it, too bad, all those maidservants she had spoken of would have him in honor and Michal would, as a result, have no children by David. Obviously, not appreciating religious nude dancing had very serious consequences. In this case David had all of Michal's children by a later husband, hanged, the youngest being only 7 years old, because the jewish god required their sacrifice in order to be appeased.
Moving from the Mid East to the Far Eastern, dancing has been an integral part of temple work for centuries, even in modern times. In his Essay on the Art of Dancing, Havelock Ellis states that when a young dancing girl passes into womanhood part of the ritual involved in commemorating this change is that, "The stone phallus of the God, Shiva, takes her virginity and with this act she enters into the possession of the priests who are the representatives of the God". The costume of the initiate dancing girl has been remarkably unchanged over the centuries, as shown by ancient drawings and sculpture from the Indus Valley civilization around 3000 B.C. and those of dancing girls from eighteenth century India. Both the drawings and the sculptures show that the temple dancers danced nude.
This unfortunately shocked the puritanical British when they took over the India, and laws were passed forbidding the activities. Since these dances were very erotic, the British considered the temple priestess to be prostitutes. The art of spiritual dance has been virtually wiped out by fundamentalist Christians wherever they have influence in the world. Temple dances are very complex and very symbolic, but have an erotic undercurrent. The dances are codified in the Natya Sastra, a book of dance secrets of the Gods. This handbook was formulated somewhere around the beginning of the Christian era. Its mythical author, the sage, Bharata, claims to have received his instruction from the god Brahma. Dancing to the Indians must obviously be very important if their God would take the time to write a handbook. Each hand movement, neck movement, hip movement, even eye movement has a specific meaning. I find it interesting that when the 3rd fingers is doubled under the thumb, that means the literal sexual union of man and women. In American when we do just the opposite, stick our third finger up and the others under, that has a similar related meaning.
Moving into closer history, Greece was described by the poet Pindar as "the land of lovely dancing". One of the favorite of these dances was the GYMNOPADIAI. Gymnos, the first part of the word means naked. Our word gymnasium or gym for short has its derivation from the Greek word gymnos, Greek athletes generally worked out naked. In the gymnopaedai, naked young men danced imitating wrestling movements or fighting movements, sort of mock battles.
In Sparta around the 7th & 6th centuries B.C. they danced the Pyrrhic Dance. The war dance (everything in Sparta dealt with war) was done carrying weapons and was a mock battle performed by one or several youths. It was an essential part of military training and taught techniques of attack and defense. Socrates the renowned Greek philosopher, teacher and war hero, was of the opinion that the best dancers made the best warriors. In religious dancing, the priestesses of the temple at Delphi are said to have given their oracle messages while under the influence of a hypnotic dance in which the priestess imitated the movement of a serpent.
The oracle of Delphi was originated by an Egyptian priestess who brought her dance with her. In later years the young dancing oracles were replaced by elderly women who gave oracle while seated on a three legged stool or tripod. In the Greek religions worship of Dionysus, wild, erotic dances were practiced. Dionysus became, Bacchus, in Roman times. At the Bacchanalia festival erotic dances usually between one man and two women were performed. A large erect phallus was carried around in the dancing processionals. Likewise the festivals of Lupricalia were noted for their wild, sensual dances in which sausages played a very important part. So important a part in fact that both dancing and sausages were outlawed by the Christian Emperors of the 4th and 5th century. It is said that the Luprical women made the sausages delightful as well as delicious to eat - the mother of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who founded Rome, and the woman who raised the twins were both Luprials.
The Roman poet Ovid describes lovers as dancers. "One is a dancer, swaying the perfect picture of rhythm; Movements luring my heart, with the seduction of art." He states that no matter how stoic the man is who watches the woman dancer "Straightway before your eyes, what as Priapus will rise". Priapus was a roman God with a very large penis, the son of Dionysus and the goddess of love, Aphrodite. It is from this root that our clinical term priapism comes which means a condition in which a man has a hard on he can't get to go down.
Moving along in history, on the heels of the Romans came the Christians. With their attitude of the body and sex being carnal, devilish and evil, any enjoyment of moving the body in erotic, spiritual dance was met with condemnation. It is said that no one is more intolerant than a converted sinner. Certainly St. Augustine who enjoyed himself in his youth proves that saying true. He declared that "Dance is a circle with the devil in the center". Obviously a put down of the temple dances in which priestesses danced in a circle. The general populace refused to give up their dancing. After centuries of Christian persecution, some remnants of Goddess religious fertility rites even endure today. For example in the May Pole dances. The months of May was a month of sexual freedom throughout Europe up until the 19th century. In May, men and women, young, old, married, single all went out to the fields and groves to have sex to encourage fertility of the land and insure a good crop. The May pole represented the Gods phallus in Mother Earth. People decorated it and danced around it. Kids still do today, even though they have no idea of its original meaning. The Christian church opposed May festivals. A 16th century English Puritan writer, Philip Stubes, railed against May pole dancing. He said, "What clipping, what culling, what kissing and bussing, what smooching and slobbering one of another, what filthy groping and unclean handling is not practiced in the dances." He estimated, though how he got his statistics is unknown, probably from peeping through bushes, that not one girl in 3 retained her virginity after taking part in May pole rituals. He said sarcastically, "If you would have your daughter bawdy and unclean and a filthy speaker and such, like, bring her up in music and dancing." Nowadays for a young woman to study music and dance shows she is well bred, upper class and cultured.
A poet, Wilbur Fenons, in 1619 wrote this lament to the laws against May fertility rituals: "When no capricious constables disturb them, Nor Justice of the peace did seek to curb them, Nor peevish puritan, in railing sort, Nor over-wise church warden, spoiled the sport, Happy the age, and harmless were the days (for then true love and amity were found) when every village did a Maypole raise and Wison ales and May games did abound. But since the summer poles were overthrown, and all good sports and merriment decayed. How times and men are changed, so well is known. It were but labor lost if more were said Alas, poor May poles; what should be the cause, That you were almost banished from the Earth? Who never were rebellious to the laws; Your greatest crime was harmless, honest mirth."
Why was May Pole dancing outlawed and the May Pole banished? Because the Christian Church was determined to stamp out every vestige of the Goddess religion. (Just as the Los Angles Police department is trying to do today) The joys of dancing, the joys of sex, the joy of life, blessings given by the Goddess for the pleasure of mankind, these became sins; forbidden to the Christians who in return forbid them to the rest of the world.
But the people still kept dancing despite harsh restrictions, so the Christian church tried to substitute its own dancing. Bishop Clement of Alexandria declare, "Thou shalt dance in a ring together with the Angels around Him who is without beginning or end." The church began to allow dancing in graveyards to symbolize a joyous afterlife. Christians could look forward to joy in Heaven, but the church make life on earth a real Hell.
In 12th century Southern France, William IX of Aquitaine, founded the Troubadours, who sang love ballads to his grand daughter Eleanor of Aquitaine. William also came up with the idea of breaking up the group circle dances into couples who would dance side by side. This was, you might say, the very beginning of modern ballroom dancing. However, the Christian Church did not care for couples dancing off together, nor did they care for other ideas that these people of Southern France held. Ideas which the Pope decided were heretical.
For example the Waldensians, and Albiginsians did not believe in the infallibility of the Pope, which made the Pope very much inclined to want to get rid of them. The notorious Inquisition was first organized not to go after witches, but rather after these heretics in Southern France. Heresy has been defined as religious error persistently adhered to in the face of the truth, as laid down by the Church. That is the truth laid down by the Church and not necessarily the truth as established by science, reason or anyone else. I was excommunicated as a heretic by the Mormon church because I espoused that the priesthood which I hold, the Priesthood of the Goddess of The Most High is the anointing for women referred to in their Doctrine and Covenant.
It was only after the French heretics were eliminated that the Inquisitors realized they would soon be without a job, and the good fathers came up with witchcraft as heresy. William of Aquitaine was too powerful and not even the inquisitors dared call Eleanor a witch. At the age of 16 she was Queen of France, and was notorious for her dancing and having sex with all her troubadours and half the French army. After divorcing her French king she became Queen of England. It seems that Christian heresy is not so much in one's beliefs as it is in their political strength.
The torture and atrocities committed against women accused of witchcraft is detailed in the Chapter on Witches. Sex was quite an obsession to medieval Christians. Dancing with the devil was often required in a witches confession. It is interesting to note that while the witch danced the devil played the bagpipes, which was considered to be the devil's musical instrument.
Dancing, being a joyous, pleasurable activity which in ancient Goddess religions often preceded sexual, spiritual rituals, had to be stigmatized by the Christian Church as being devilish and evil. To avoid the Inquisitors, troubadours and dancers fled to other countries and introduced couple dancing there. Dances were also brought to Europe by explorers returning from the New World. One in particular, the Saraband, from Central America was considered so indecent that a law was passed in Spain in 1583 forbidding people from even humming its music. One description of the dance said it was danced by girls with castanets and men with tambourines who, "exhibit indecency in a 100 positions and gestures. They let the hips sway, and the breasts knock together. They close their eyes and dance the kiss, and the last fulfillment of love." I would say that would make our modern day Dirty Dancing as portrayed by Patrick Swaze pale in comparison.
In 1577, France saw the introduction of women in the theater who performed religious dances on stage on Sundays no less, "whose breasts, entirely uncovered, rose and fell by compass or measure like a clock".
They may have been living it up on the continent. But what was happening in early America? The early colonies were settled by Puritans. Puritans didn't care for sexy dancing. They were even upset by the way Indians danced, with all their leaping and stomping, even on Sundays. Then in 1625, a non-Puritan Thomas Morton opened a place at Merry Mount (appropriate name) which had dancing around an 80 ft. May Pole. That brought about great condemnation. He was accused of setting up a "Stinking Idol, and Inviting the Indian women or their consorts, dancing and frisking together like so many fairies or furies rather and worse practices which smacked of mad Bacchalians."
On May 29, 1913 the greatest scandal ever involving a piece of music took place at the Theatre des Champ Elysee in Paris. The occasion was the first performance of Igor Stravinsky's, Le Sacre Du Printemps, The Rites of Spring. His music and the subject of the theme caused a near riot, even among intellectuals and the upper class. In the early 1900's the world was still very much Victorian, sex for the average person was a taboo. Stravinsky, though he lived in France at the time of the composing of Rites of Spring, was a Russian by birth and greatly influenced by Russian folklore and pagan Russian culture. A few years earlier French artist, Henri Matisse had painted a work entitled "the Dance", which depicts the ancient religious ritual circle dancers nude. The music of Stravinsky was a little hard for the ears of people accustomed to waltzes. Some may find it sounding discordant or non-melodious if their ears have never listen to his music or Arnold Schonberg or other modern composers. His music feels like nature in the Spring -- A battle between the dead of winter and the resurrecting power of the Goddess, necessary for the fertility of the land. I chose this music for the nude dance I performed on my T.V. show dealing with religious nude dancing. I danced as did the ancient temple priestesses - though not a temple dance. They danced in the fields and in the groves in the spring to ensure fertility of the land, to rejoice in the renewal of the generative forces. To quote Isadora Duncan, Pioneer in American Modern Dance, "Nudity is truth, it is art."
If Christians couldn't stop woman from enjoying two of the greatest pleasures in the goddess religions, sex and dance, they could do something to stop them altogether--kill them. Sex and dance became a sure way to be branded a witch and burned at the stake.