Circle Dance: The Drama and Joy of Community
Circle dance or chain dance, is a style of dance done in a circle or semicircle to the accompaniment of rhythm instruments and singing. Circle dancing is the oldest known dance formation, and was part of community life.
In Sothern Africa, the San Bushman shamanic trance-dance that is performed as a personal and communal healing ritual, and the vhaVenda Domba ‘snake dance’ of the young women’s initiation ceremony, are both performed in a circle, moving counter-clockwise.
The Native American ‘Ghost Dance’ was a new religious movement incorporated in 1890 into Native American belief systems. According to the teachings of spiritual leader Wovoka, proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits to fight on their behalf, end westward expansion, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to Native American peoples throughout the region.The basis for the Ghost Dance is the circle dance, a traditional Native American dance
In Macedonia, the murals on the monastery of Lesnovo, show a group of young men linking arms in a round dance. A chronicle from 1344 urges the people of Zadar to sing and dance circle dances for a festival. However, a reference from Bulgaria, in a 14th-century sermon, called chain dances ‘devilish and damned.’
The Reigen circle dance of Germany, dates from the 10th century. Dancing around the church or a fire was frequently denounced by church authorities. Dancing was primarily done around trees.
European traveler, Salomon Schweigger, in Constantinople in 1577, describes the events at a Greek wedding: ‘then they joined arms one upon the other, made a circle, went round the circle, with their feet stepping hard and stamping; one sang first, with the others all following after.’
The Hora dance originates in the Balkans. The dancers hold each other’s hands and the circle spins, usually counterclockwise, as each participant follows a sequence of three steps forward and one step back. The Hora is popular during wedding celebrations and festivals.