The Dance of Origins

scudo di achille1
Reconstruction of Achilles’ shield as described in the Iliad. “Of youths and maidens, bounding hand in hand. The maids in soft simars of linen dress’d; The youths all graceful in the glossy vest: Of those the locks with flowery wreath inroll’d; Of these the sides adorn’d with swords of gold, That glittering gay, from silver belts depend. Now all at once they rise, at once descend, With well-taught feet: now shape in oblique ways, Confusedly regular, the moving maze: Now forth at once, too swift for sight, they spring, And undistinguish’d blend the flying ring: So whirls a wheel, in giddy circle toss’d, And, rapid as it runs, the single spokes are lost. The gazing multitudes admire around: Two active tumblers in the centre bound.” (Translated by Alexander Pope).

As many scholars of dance disciplines well know, just leafing through the contents of any dance history treatise is enough to realize that, to date, only seldom the research has been able to go beyond the chronological limit that separates History from Prehistory – a limit which western culture fixes with the introduction of writing. Up to now the chapter on the most ancient forms of dance hasn’t been written yet. Until thirty years ago the figurative inventory available to the dance historian could in fact count almost exclusively on a few images, most of which came from archaeological contexts of the post-Homeric Aegean area. Lacking a precise chronology and a proper typological and stylistic analysis, every rare iconographic document preceding the 8th-7th century bce went to enrich the already crowded category of  the “scenes of ritual dance”. Thanks to the birth of a new discipline, Prehistoric Iconography, driven by the great talents of intellectuals such as A. Leroy-Gourhan, J.D. Lewis-Williams, J. Clottes, E. Anati and others, our knowledge about prehistoric cultures has been enriched with more and more precise details about technology, material culture, society, religion, all in all about the mind of prehistoric man.
As we will see, the model of causal explanation of natural sciences cannot be utilized to understand man’s artistic and cultural behaviour. Collinwood explained that the reasons, the inclinations, the desires, the intentions at the base of man’s behaviour cannot depend on a natural law. Thus, if a natural event is evaluated exclusively from its apparent external form, and just from that, a human event has an external form, the bodies and the movements, and an internal one, which must be described not in terms of causes, but of reasons through which an agent determines a change of reality. The natural laws then are not able to properly explain human behavior. More than natural laws, man follows rules, and the rule refers to a cultural standard set up by a community. The rules give meaning to the behavior, but don’t cause it.

Object of this blog is to tell, mostly through images and by comparison, but only bringing nearer dance realities in compatible cultural closeness, some stories that come before the usual history of dance told so far.
I started to collect these stories as early as 1985 when I was still working at my Philosophy degree thesis. During the years, despite some difficult choices that I always forced myself to honour, I have never stopped studying and seeking. So, the first result of this blog will be my fun, the second will be the chance I’m offering myself to make up for lost time.
See you soon,
Sincerely, Gaudenzio Ragazzi

Autore: Gaudenzio Ragazzi

(English). My name is Gaudenzio Ragazzi, a long time ago I graduated in Philosophy with a master in History of Theater. To realize my thesis on the "origins of dance", a theme that still today boasts only two or three specialized researchers in the world, I became a scholar of Prehistoric Iconography. In the last thirty years I have not been able to escape the responsibilities of life. So, after the death of my father, I led the family artisan company that produces tailored shirts. A few years ago I decided that it was time to resume my studies and complete the research I had started as a young man (that nobody else had yet completed). Good luck Gaudenzio! Mi chiamo Gaudenzio Ragazzi, molto tempo fa ho conseguito la laurea in Filosofia con specializzazione in Storia del Teatro. Sono diventato uno studioso di Iconografia Preistorica per realizzare la mia tesi di laurea sulle "origini della danza", argomento che ancora oggi vanta nel mondo solo due o tre studiosi di una certa levatura. Negli ultimi trent'anni non ho potuto sottrarmi alle responsabilità della vita. Così, dopo la morte di mio padre, ho guidato l'azienda artigiana di famiglia che produce camicie su misura. Alcuni anni fa ho deciso che era arrivato il momento di riprendere i miei studi e di fare da vecchio quello che non ho potuto fare da giovane (e che nessun altro nel frattempo aveva completato). Buon lavoro Gaudenzio !


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