Ooh, Interesting! Fascinating Facts - The Oldest Dance in the World

October 14, 2016

Following on from our blog last week about the organ that won’t stop playing for another 600 years, you might think that this is an unrealistic timeframe for something to survive. After all, 600 years is an awful long way away. But then, there are musical instruments that have survived for far longer than 600 years and dances too… But which is the oldest dance in the world and what is it based on?

This fact comes from Encyclopaedia Britannica, which you might think means that it is infallible as a piece of evidence. Unfortunately the evidence that is presented is a little on the flimsy side. Still, if it’s good enough for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, it’s good enough for us! Therefore, the oldest dance in the world that is still performed today is the Austrian Schuhplattler, which comes from German, meaning ‘show-dance’.

According to the ‘EB’ (we can’t type ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ every time), the dance dates all the way back to the Neolithic times more than 5,000 years ago, though admittedly the only evidence backing this up is how various experts have decided to interpret some cave drawings. If you choose to ignore the artistic scrawlings of a cave dweller though, you’ll be happy to know that the earliest writings take back to 1030, where a German monk from Tegernsee Abbey wrote about a village dance containing leaps and hand gestures that was performed to impress women in the community. From the photo above, it is clear the dance is really working! 

Perhaps more interesting are the supposed origins of the dance; the Austrian Schuhplattler – so the story goes – is derived from the mating ritual of a large grouse-like bird called the auerhan (though is better known in the UK by the name of the capercaillie, though we’d argue it’s not that well known as we’d never even heard the word before!) During the mating season, the male performs for the attention of the female by beating his wings, jumping up and down and essentially making as much noise as possible.

Some of the jokers amongst may think therefore that the oldest dance in the world can be seen up and down the land every Saturday at about 3pm, though the idea that supporters at a football match could impress anyone is a dubious one. Anyway there you have it, the Austrian Schuhplatter is the world’s oldest dance so store that one away for the next pub quiz!



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By Henry Fosdike