1,000 years ago in the German village of Kölbigk, a priest was poised to perform Christmas Mass. Outside the chapel, an unexpected commotion materialized. 18 villagers had gathered, dancing, clapping, and chanting. Their impropriety shocked the congregation and infuriated the priest, who cursed the revelers to dance for one year as punishment.
This is among the earliest recorded cases of “Dancing Mania” (also known as St. John’s Dance or St. Vitus’ Dance), recorded by observers into the 17th century, and famously documented by artists like Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
Scholars disagree on the causes of this phenomenon, with explanations ranging from ergot poisoning, to spontaneous catharsis after natural disasters like plagues and floods. As with the Salem Witch Trials and similar instances of mass hysteria, the answer is likely multideterminant, indicating something mysterious and fascinating about how humankind copes with extreme stress.
Why are we dwelling on this esoteric footnote of medieval history? As spring dawns in the northern hemisphere, we’re sensing a spontaneous and overpowering upswell of excitement, energy, and even a bit of madness. The precise path forward remains murky, but the tender sun, singing birds, and blossoming trees are inspiring dreams of crowded dancefloors, bustling bars, and maskless museums. We hope to see you there, very soon.
Stay tuned for more editions of Miscellaneous — our no-frills round-up of the cultural items inspiring Athletics — in the coming months.
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Oeuf de Pâques –Delightful Easter treats from Frenchette Bakery in TriBeCa
Winner Bakery – Black pepper, cheddar, polenta loaf available Thursday and Sunday in Park Slope
Spring Lamb in Fresh Herbs – Easter special with origins in Georgia (the country)
Peter’s Love of Birds – Naturalists and authors join the Peter Matthiessen Center to discuss the wonder of birds
Cleaning is Healing – Hiroko Yoda traces Japan’s long history of tidying up in The New Yorker
POOG – A lighter look at wellness with Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak
Floating Point x Pharoah Sanders x London Symphony Orchestra – Deep collaboration yields deep soundscapes for deep meditation
Tina – New documentary on the extraordinary life and sounds of Tina Turner
Freak Power – Exhibition on the design behind Hunter Thompson’s legendary campaign for Aspen Sheriff
On Friendship – The Writ Large podcast examines Cicero’s meditation on companionship
Irish Traditional and Folk Mix – An eclectic mix from the Emerald Isle
Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life – Now on at Moma PS1
“Here, there’s no logic to melons and spring onions exchanging hands.
No rhythm to men’s briefs clothes-pinned to the fire escape.”
From “Chinatown Diptych” by Jenny Xie (2018)
Header Image – “Grass Suits” by Gene Pool