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The Dancing Goddesses: Folklore, Archaeology, and the Origins of European Dance Hardcover – February 11, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393065367
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,203,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In her latest, joyfully comprehensive work of scholarly discovery and original analysis, archaeologist, linguist, and prehistoric textiles expert Barber, inspired by her passion for folk dancing, unearths the roots and significance of dance in the diverse cultures of Europe and Russia. Originally dance “was not an ‘art form’ but the essence of life itself,” a perception borne out by Barber’s many-pronged diggings into folklore, religion, agriculture, seasonal rituals, traditional medicine, ornament, and clothing. She begins with folktales about magical dancing female spirits, “bringers of fertility,” and village maidens dancing to summon spring. Of courtship dances, Barber wryly observes that “certain dances evolved to test whether the bride was physically strong and agile enough” to do the hard work women performed in the fields and at home. Taking cues from images of dancers in handicrafts and art and spanning ancient Greece and Rome and the meshing of pagan traditions and Christianity, Barber describes “dance cures” and dances for the ancestors and revels in such intriguing customs as the Slavic “magical sleeve dance.” She even draws on cognitive science to investigate how dancing affects the brain, bringing people into accord and strengthening communities. Years in the making, Barber’s far-roaming, gracefully interpretive, and sprightly study of European dance will be the go-to resource for many years to come. --Donna Seaman

Review

“Starred review. [A] joyfully comprehensive work. . . . Barber’s sprightly study of European dance will be the go-to resource for years to come.” — Booklist

“An impressive study that weaves together dance, folklore, culture, and mythology.” — Library Journal

Customer Reviews

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Kost on September 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Barber, Professor Emerita of Archeology and Linguistics at Occidental College, sets out to document the origins of dance in the region ranging from Crete through the Balkans to the Baltic. In the effort, however, she spans not only her native disciplines but also women's herstory, the social sciences, ethnology, and folkloristics to systematically explore the gestalt of agrarian culture, from folktales and ballads, herbalism and textile arts, to courtship and marriage rituals, as well as dance, and proves that "'perishable' customs and beliefs can survive for millennia."

Part I examines the functional origins of dance in the region of interest. Most important among these is the appeasement of the spirits, especially ancestors and the volatile spirits of maidens who had died before giving birth, as their fertility remained latent and transferable to the earth if placated, but their power could be destructive if not. Dance served as part of the rituals that marked time, often as sympathetic magic, inducing the earth to perform in various ways mimicking or responding to the actions of the dancers. It also established and affirmed the bonds of community that are so important to survival particularly in agrarian societies.

Part II uses the folktale The Frog Princess to reveal the role of dance and women's arts to prove the bride's fitness for marriage and likely fertility. In agrarian cultures, fecundity was paramount to provide extra hands for labor and marriage often took place only after the bride proved fertile by pregnancy. (Christianity was largely an urban phenomenon and its valuation of virginal brides was limited in its influence).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By elaine on September 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
Dancing Goddesses is such an inspiration for me! I loved how the book weaves history, myths, art/artifacts to tell the story of dance orgins and original dance inspirations. As a student of Duncan dance I was very happy to learn about the orgins of European dance - it's part of the tradition - Isadora studied Greek art and pulled from her own family folk dance traditions to create/inspire her dance - so this book was such a find for me! The author has a talent of explaining her findings in an interesting and fun way - plus there are great images!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, she ties together so many of the strands I've been exploring in the last several years in a very readable style. It makes a much more coherent whole now. This covers a lot about folk dances, early neolithic culture, traditional life in the balkans in closer to modern times, mythic understandings, women's lives and work, folk tales, seasonal customs, and textiles in a way that gently uncovers connections between them all.

Recommended for people who are interested in folk dancing, balkan traditional culture, the culture of the earliest agriculturalists, the history of women's lives and work, and / or mythic understandings of the world.
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