Book: Dancing in the Streets
Dancing in the Streets. A History of Collective Joy.
Barbara Ehrenrich, Granta Publications.
A fascinating historical tour of communal ecstasy from the Greeks to Stadium Rock. The festivals of Baccus and Pan lead on through other cultures and expressions of joy. The Hebrew King David, dancing wildly in a dance with his subjects before the ark leads on down the centuries to the early church, so different with its charismatic worship, tongues and prophesy. The thread is followed down the centuries with dry cathedrals portrayed as vibrant places for a local population to meet, laugh and dance. The festival of fools lightened the winter mood and the open spaces before the Victorian pews were made for dancing in circle patterns ( like country dance ). The industrial revolution has much to answer for in pollution and exploitation of the proletariat. Another tragic loss was the week long dancing and public merry making of the cycle of festivals, may poles, revels, mummer plays and days of village recreation. The factory demanded shifts and limited holidays.
The book proposes that this has been partly rediscovered in the raves of the 80s and the crowd responses to stadium rock bands or on the terraces of football matches where songs fill the stands. Commercial firms muscle into this communal festivity yet we could rediscover this abandonment to the dance and rhythm in a low carbon relocalised life. We need the rhythm of the seasons and the fun that comes through shared ecstatic experience.