In July of 1518, a woman began to dance wildly in the streets of Strasbourg for several days. Within a week, her contagious movement had infected others and as many as 30 people were feverishly fox-trotting non-stop. Eventually, around 400 people in an area of the Holy Roman Empire (that is now modern day France) moved and grooved for a month without stopping for rest. Some of those involved quite literally danced themselves to death from exhaustion. There are many theories about what was behind the “Dancing Plague of 1518,” but nobody is really sure what caused the outbreak or why it lasted for as long as it did.
In an effort to cure this strange disease, authorities and clergy declared there should be even more dancing! They opened guildhalls, built stages for the maniacal mambos, and paid musicians to perform around the clock so people could continue ceaselessly night and day. However, this only led the pestilent dancing to spread even more rapidly and affect a greater number of people.
Pestilent Dance plays out this twisted tango with winding, wild melodies and the jagged, uneven rhythms of bodies moving awkwardly as they attempt to shake off their fevered disease. The music is energetic, lively, and playful, but – like in 1518 – this Pestilent Dance ultimately proves to be a dance with death.