Dance This act is usually denoted in Hebrews by some form of חוּל, chul, which literally signifies to twist (and is often applied to writhing under pain, as of birth, or trembling under fear), and hence probably refers to the whirling motions of the Oriental sacred dances (Jg 21:21,23; Ps 30:11; Ps 149:3; Ps 150:4; Jer 31:4,13; La 5:15; Ex 15:20; Ex 32:19; Jg 11:34; 1Sa 18:6; 1Sa 21:15; 1Sa 29:5; Song 6:13). A similar idea of moving in a circle is radically contained in the word חָגָג, chagag', translated "dancing" in 1Sa 30:16. Another term thus rendered (Ec 3:4; Job 21:11; Isa 13:21; 1Ch 15:29) is רָקִד, rakad', which simply means to skip or leap for joy, as it is elsewhere rendered, and is nearly equivalent to a fourth term thus translated (2Sa 6:14,16), כָּרִר, karat', which means to jump or spring. In the New Test. the terms translated "dance" are χορός (radically expressive of the same idea of circular motion), applied to a festive occasion in connection with music (Lu 15:25), and ὀρχέομαι, literally to leap up and down, but conventionally used in later times to denote a regular dance according to rule, either in concert (Mt 11:17; Lu 7:32) or by a single person, especially in the elaborate pantomime dance of Roman times (Mt 14:6; Mr 6:22). (See Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Saltatio, Pantomimus.)
As emotions of joy and sorrow universally express themselves in movements and gestures of the body, efforts have been made among all nations, but especially among those of the South and East, in proportion as they seem to be more demonstrative, to reduce to measure and to strengthen by unison the more pleasurable — those of joy. The dance is spoken of in holy Scripture universally as symbolical of some rejoicing, and is often coupled for the sake of contrast with mourning, as in Ec 3:4, "a time to mourn and a time to dance" (comp.Ps 30:11; Mt 11:17). Children dance spontaneously (Job 21:11; Mt 11:17; Lu 7:32).
1. At a very early period, dancing was enlisted into the service of religion among the heathen; the dance, enlivened by vocal and instrumental music, was a usual accompaniment in all the processions and festivals of the gods (Strabo, 10); and, indeed, so indispensable was this species of violent merriment, that no ceremonial was considered duly accomplished-no triumph rightly celebrated, without the aid of dancing. The Hebrews, in common with other nations, had their sacred dances, which were performed on their solemn anniversaries, and other occasions of commemorating some special token of the divine goodness and favor, as means of drawing forth, in the liveliest manner, their expressions of joy and thanksgiving. The performers were usually a band of females, who, in cases of public rejoicing, volunteered their services (Ex 15:20; 1Sa 18:6), and who, in the case of religious observances, composed the regular chorus of the temple (Ps 149:3; Ps 150:4), although there are not wanting instances of men also joining in the dance on these seasons of religious festivity. Thus David deemed it no way derogatory to his royal dignity to dance on the auspicious occasion of the ark being brought up to Jerusalem (2Sa 6:14,16). The word used to describe his attitude is significant of violent efforts of leaping (מכִרכֵּר בּכָלאּעֹז, מפִזֵּז וּמכִרכֵּר); and, from the apparent impropriety and indecency of a man advanced in life, above all a king, exhibiting such freaks, with no other covering than a linen ephod, many learned men have declared themselves at a loss to account for so strange a spectacle. It was, unquestionably, done as an act of religious homage; and when it is remembered that the ancient Asiatics were accustomed, in many of their religious festivals, to throw off their garments even to perfect nudity, as a symbol sometimes of penitence, sometimes of joy, and that this, together with many other observances that bear the stamp of a remote antiquity, was adopted by Mohammed, who has enjoined the pilgrims of Mecca to encompass the Kaaba clothed only with the ihram, we may perhaps consider the linen ephod, which David put on when he threw off his garments and danced before the ark, to be symbolic of the same objects as the ihram of the Mohammedans (see Foster's Mohammedanism Unveiled). The conduct of David was imitated by the later Jews, and the dance was incorporated among their favorite usages as an appropriate close of the joyous occasion of the feast of Tabernacles. "The members of the Sanhedrim, the rulers of the synagogues, doctors of schools, and all who were eminent for rank or piety, accompanied the sacred music with their voices, and leaped and danced with torches in their hands for a great part of the night, while the women and common people looked on." This strange and riotous kind of festivity was kept up till exhaustion and sleep dismissed them to their homes (Buxtorf, De Synag. Jud. cap. 21).
The character of the ancient dance was very different from that of ours, as appears from the conduct of Miriam, who "took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances." Precisely similar is the Oriental dance of the present day, which, accompanied of course with music, is led by the principal person of the company, the rest imitating the steps. The evolutions, as well as the songs, are extemporaneous — not confined to a fixed rule, but varied at the pleasure of the leading dancer; and yet they are generally executed with so much grace, and the time so well kept with the simple notes of the music, that the group of attendants show wonderful address and propriety in following the variations of the leader's feet. The missionary Wolff describes a festival of some Eastern Christians, where one eminent individual, who led the song as well as the dance, conducted through the streets of the city a numerous band of people, who leaped and danced in imitation of the gestures used by him. When the late deputation of the Church of Scotland were on their way through Palestine, their young Arab guides, to relieve the tedium of the journey, sometimes "commenced a native song and dance; one of them, advancing a little before the rest, began the song, dancing forward as he repeated the words; when the rest, following him in regular order, joined in the chorus, keeping time by a simultaneous clapping of hands. They sang several Arabian songs, responding to one another, dancing and clapping their hands." In their "dancing dervishes" the Turks seem to have adopted into their system the enthusiastic raptures, at once martial and sacred, which (e.g. in the Roman Salii) seem indigenous in many Southern and Eastern races from the earliest times.
In the earlier period dancing is found combined with some song or refrain (Ex 15:20; Ex 32:18-19; 1Sa 21:11); and with the תֹּŠ, or tambourine (A. V. "timbrel"), more especially in those impulsive outbursts of popular feeling which cannot find sufficient vent in voice or in gesture singly. Nor is there any more strongly popular element traceable in the religion of the ancient Jews than the opportunity so given to a prophet or prophetess to kindle enthusiasm for Jehovah on momentous crises of national joy, and thus root the theocracy in their deepest feelings, more especially in those of the women, themselves most easily stirred, and most capable of exciting others. The dance was regarded even by the Romans as the worship of the body, and thus had a place among sacred things (Servius ad Virg. Bucol. v. 73). A similar sentiment is conveyed in Ps 35:10: "All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee?" So the;tongue" is the best member among many, the "glory" (Ps 57:8) of the whole frame of flesh, every part of which is to have a share in the praises of God. Similarly among the Greeks is ascribed by Athenaeus to Socrates a fragment in praise of dancing (Athen. 14:627; comp. Arrian, Alex. 4:11). Plato certainly (Leg. 7:6) reckons dancing (ὄρχησις) as part of gymnastics (γυμναστική). So far was the feeling of the purest period of antiquity from attaching the notion of effeminacy to dancing, that the ideas of this and of warlike exercise are mutually interwoven, and their terms almost correspond as synonyms (Homer, II. 16:617; comp. Creuzer, Symb. 2:367; 4:474; and see especially Lucian, De Salt., passim). Women, however, among the Hebrews made the dance their especial means of expressing their feelings; and when their husbands or friends returned from a battle on behalf of life and home, they felt that they too ought to have some share in the event, and found that share in the dance of triumph welcoming them back. The "eating, and drinking, and dancing" of the Amalekites is recorded, as is the people's "rising up to play" (עחֵק, including a revelling dance), with a tacit censure; the one seems to mark the lower civilization of the Amalekites, the other the looseness of conduct into which idolatry led the Israelites (Exodus 32:0; 1Co 10:7; 1Sa 30:16). So, among the Bedouins, native dances of men are mentioned (Lynch, Dead Sea, p. 295), and are probably an ancient custom. The Hebrews, however, save in such moments of temptation, seem to have left dancing to the women. But, more especially, on such occasions of triumph, any woman, whose nearness of kin to the champion of the moment gave her a public character among her own sex. seems to have felt that it was her part to lead such a demonstration of triumph or of welcome; so Miriam (Ex 15:20), and so Jephthah's daughter (Jg 11:34), and similarly there no doubt was, though none is mentioned, a chorus and dance of women led by Deborah, as the song of the men by Barak (comp. Jg 5:1 with Ex 15:1,20). Similarly, too, Judith (15:12, 13) leads her own song and dance of triumph over Holofernes. There was no such leader of the choir mentioned in the case of David and Saul. Hence, whereas Miriam "answered" the entire chorus in Ex 15:21, the women in the latter case "answered one another as they played" (1Sa 18:7), that "answer" embodying the sentiment of the occasion, and forming the burden of the song. The "coming out" of the women to do this (Jg 11:34; 1Sa 18:6; comp. "Went out," Ex 15:20) is also a feature worthy of note, and implies the object of meeting, attending upon, and conducting home. So Jephthah's daughter met her father, the "women of all the cities" came to meet and celebrate Saul and David, and their host, but Miriam in the same way "goes out" before "Jehovah" the "man of war," whose presence seems implied. This marks the peculiarity of David's conduct when, on the return of the ark of God from its long sojourn among strangers and borderers, he (2Sa 6:5-22) was himself choregus; and here, too, the women, with their timbrels (see especially ver. 5, 19, 20, 22), took an important share. This fact brings out more markedly the feelings of Saul's daughter Michal, keeping aloof from the occasion, and "looking through a window" at the scene. She should, in accordance with the examples of Miriam, etc., have herself led the female choir, and so come out to meet the ark and her lord. She stays with the "household" (ver. 20), and "comes out to meet" him with reproaches, perhaps feeling that his zeal was a rebuke to her apathy. It was before "the handmaids," i.e. in leading that choir which she should have led, that he had "uncovered" himself; an unkingly exposure as she thought it, which the dance rendered necessary — the wearing merely the ephod or linen tunic. The occasion was meant to be popularly viewed in connection with David's subjugation of various enemies and accession to the throne of Israel (see 1Ch 12:23-13:8); he accordingly thinks only of the honor of God who had so advanced him, and in that forgets self (comp. Müller, De Davide ante Arc. Ugolini, 32). From the mention of "damsels," "timbrels," and "dances" (Ps 68:25; Ps 149:3; Ps 150:4) as elements of religious worship, it may perhaps be inferred that David's feeling led him to incorporate in its rites that popular mode of festive celebration. This does not seem to have survived him, for as Saalschitz remarks (Archaol. der Hebr. 1:299), in the mention of religious revivals under Hezekiah and Josiah, no notice of them occurs; and this, although the "words," the "writing," and the "commandment of David" on such subjects are distinctly alluded to (2Ch 29:30; 2Ch 35:4,15). It is possible that the banishing of this popular element, which found its vent no doubt in the idolatrous rites of Baal and Astarte (as it certainly did in those of the golden calf, Ex 32:19), made those efforts take a less firm hold on the people than they might have done, and that David's more comprehensive scheme might have retained some ties of feeling which were thus lost. On the other hand was doubtless the peril of the loose morality which commonly attended festive dances at heathen shrines. Certainly in later Judaism the dance was included among some religious festivities, e.g. the feast of tabernacles (Mishna, Succah, v. 3, 4), where, however, the performers were men. This was probably a mere following the example of David in the letter. Also in the earlier period of the Judges the dances of the virgins in Shiloh (Jg 21:19-23) were certainly part of a religious festivity. It seems also from this last instance clear, and from the others probable, that such dances were performed by maidens apart from men, which gives an additional point to the reproach of Michal. What the fashion or figure of the dance was is a doubtful question, nor is it likely to have lacked such variety as would adapt it to the various occasions of its use. The terms employed, however, all point to dancing in a ring. In modern Oriental dances a woman leads off the dance, the others then follow her with exact imitation of her artistic and graceful attitudes. A parallelism of movement is also incident to it (Saalschiitz, ib. p. 301). Possibly Miriam so led her countrywomen. The same writer thinks that in Song 6:13, the words המּחֲנים מחֹלת (A.V. "company of two armies") imply two rows of dancing girls, and that the address in the singular number, "return, return," and again in 7:1, applies to the movements of the individual performer in a kind of contre-danse. This interpretation, however, does not remove the obscurities of the passage.
From being exclusively, or at least principally, reserved for occasions of religious worship and festivity, dancing came gradually to be practiced in common life on any remarkable seasons of mirth and rejoicing (Jer 31:4; Ps 30:11). In early times, indeed, those who perverted the exercise from a sacred use to purposes of amusement were considered profane and infamous; and hence Job. introduces it as a distinguishing feature in the character of the ungodly rich, that they encouraged a taste for dancing in their families (Job 21:11). During the classic ages of Greece and Rome society underwent a complete revolution of sentiment on this subject, insomuch that the Grecian poets represent the gods themselves as passionately fond of the diversion (Potter's Grec. Antiq. ii. 400), and that not only at Rome, but through all the provinces of the empire it was a favorite pastime, resorted to not only to enliven feasts, but in the celebration of domestic joy (Lu 15:25; Mt 14:6). Notwithstanding, however, the strong partiality cherished for this inspiriting amusement, it was considered beneath the dignity of persons of rank and character to practice it. The well-known words of Cicero, that "no one dances unless he is either drunk or mad," express the prevailing sense as to the impropriety of respectable individuals taking part in it; and hence the gay circles of Rome and its provinces derived all their entertainment, as is done in the East to this day, from the exhibitions of professional dancers. Under the patronage of the emperors, and of their luxurious tributaries, like Herod, the art was carried to the utmost perfection, the favorite mode being pantomime, which, like that of the modern Almahs or Arab women, was often of the most licentious description (see Lane's Mod. Eg. 2:105-9; St. John's Nubia, p. 268 sq.). A story of love was chosen-generally an adventure of the gods-as the plan of the dance, and the address of the performer consisted in representing, by the waving of his hands, the agility of his limbs, and the innumerable attitudes into which he threw himself, all the various passions of love, jealousy, disgust, that sway the human breast. (See at large Lucian's Treatise on Dancing.)
Amateur dancing in high life was, as that writer informs us, by no means uncommon in the voluptuous times of the later emperors. But in the age of Herod it was exceedingly rare and almost unheard of, and therefore the condescension of Salome, who volunteered, in honor of the anniversary of that monarch's birthday, to exhibit her handsome person as she led the mazy dance in the saloons of Machaerus for, though she was a child at this time, as some suppose (Michaelis, Introd.), she was still a princess — was felt to be a compliment that merited the highest reward. The folly and rashness of Herod in giving her an unlimited promise, great as they were, have been equaled and even surpassed by the munificence which many other Eastern monarchs have lavished upon favorite dancers. Shah Abbas (to mention only one anecdote of the kind), having been on a particular occasion extremely gratified with a woman who danced before him, and being at the time much intoxicated, made her a present of a magnificent khan that yielded him a considerable revenue. Next morning his minister reminded him of his extravagant liberality, whereupon, being now cool and ashamed of his folly, he sent for the dancer, and obliged her to be contented with a sum of money (Thevenot's Trav. in Persia, p. 100). It is by no means improbable that Herod too was flushed with wine, and that it was from fear he should retract his promise if she delayed till the morning that Herodias sent immediately for the head of the Baptist.
It remains to notice further that the Jewish dance was performed by the sexes separately. There is no evidence from sacred history that the diversion was promiscuously enjoyed, except it might be at the erection of the deified calf, when, in imitation of the Egyptian festival of Apis, all classes of the Hebrews intermingled in the frantic revelry. In the sacred dances, although both sexes seem to have frequently borne a part in the procession or chorus, they remained in distinct and separate companies (Ps 68:25; Jer 31:13.)
Dancing formed a part of the religious ceremonies of the Egyptians, and was also common in private entertainments (see Wilkinson's Anc. Eg. abridgment, 1:133 sq.). Many representations of dances both of men and women are found in the Egyptian paintings. The "feast unto the Lord," which Moses proposed to Pharaoh to hold, was really a dance (חג; see above).
A modern Oriental dancing-party is thus described by Layard (Nineveh. 1:119): "The dance of the Arabs, the Debkè, as it is called, resembles in some respects that of the Albanians, and those who perform in it are scarcely less vehement in their gestures or less extravagant in their excitement than those wild mountaineers. They form a circle, holding one another by the hand, and, moving slowly round at first, go through a shuffling step with their feet, twisting their bodies into various attitudes. As the music quickens their movements are more active; they stamp with their feet, yell their war-cry, and jump as they hurry round the musicians. The motions of the women are not without grace; but as they insist on wrapping themselves in their coarse cloaks before they join in the dance, their forms, which the simple Arab shirt so well displays, are entirely concealed. When those who formed the debkè were completely exhausted by their exertions, they joined the lookers-on, and seated themselves on the ground. Two warriors of different tribes, furnished with shields and naked cimeters, then entered the circle, and went through the sword-dance. As the music quickened the excitement of the performers increased. The by- standers at length were obliged to interfere and to deprive the combatants of their weapons, which were replaced by stout staves. With these they belabored one another unmercifully, to the great enjoyment of the crowd. On every successful hit, the tribe to which the one who dealt it belonged set up their war-cry and shouts of applause, while the women deafened us with the shrill tahlehl, a noise made by a combined motion of the tongue, throat, and hand vibrated rapidly over the mouth. When an Arab or a Kurd hears this tahlehl he almost loses his senses through excitement, and is ready to commit any desperate act. A party of Kurdish jesters from the mountains entertained the Arabs with performances and imitations more amusing than refined. They were received with shouts of laughter. The dances were kept up by the light of the moon the greater part of the night." See Renz, De saltationibus Jud. vett. relig. (Lips. 1738); Danov, De choreis sacris Ebr. (Gryph. 1766); Spencer, De saltat. vett. Hebr. (in Ugolini Thesaur. 30); Zeltner, De choreis vett. Hebr. (Altorf. 1726); Altenon, De choreis Paulo interdictis (Misen. 1744); Bromel, Festanze der ersten Christen (Jen. 1701); Grunenberg, De saltatione Christiano licita (Rost. 1704,1719, 1730); Purmann, De saltatione (Freft. 1785); Burette (in the Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscr. 1:93 sq.); Bonnet, Hist. de la Danse (Par. 1724); Hecker, Die Tanzwuth (Berl. 1832). SEE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.