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Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History Paperback – August 29, 2008
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This scholarly and creative exploration of the largely unresearched phenomenon of shared euphoria aroused by unison movement moves across the disciplines of dance, history, sociology, and psychology...Highly recommended.
As with so many themes Ýlike this one¨, whether in science or in symphonies, one wonders (in retrospect) why it has not been invented before...ÝT¨he book is fascinating. -- K. Kortmulder "Acta Biotheoretica (The Netherlands)"
ÝA¨ wide-ranging and thought-provoking book...A mind-stretching exploration of the thesis that keeping together in time'--army drill, village dances, and the like--consolidates group solidarity by making us feel good about ourselves and the group and thus was critical for social cohesion and group survival in the past.
ÝThis book is¨ nothing less than a survey of the historical impact of shared rhythmic motion from the paleolithic to the present, an impact that ÝMcNeill¨ finds surprisingly significant...McNeill moves beyond Durkheim in noting that in complex societies divided by social class muscular bonding may be the medium through which discontented and oppressed groups can gain the solidarity necessary for challenging the existing social order. -- Robert N. Bellah "Commonweal"
thus that communal dance and drill alter human feelings.
who prospered at least as much on the strength of their dancing as their Sunday morning worship.
good about ourselves and the group and thus was critical for social cohesion and group survival in the past.
history. Most of McNeill's pioneering study is devoted to the history of communal dancing...[This] volume will appeal equally to scholars and to the general reader.
of over-speculation, to speculate in areas where certainty is impossible. Its vision of dance as a shaper of evolution, a perpetually sustainable and sustaining resource, would crown anyone's career.
Durkheim in noting that in complex societies divided by social class muscular bonding may be the medium through which discontented and oppressed groups can gain the solidarity necessary for challenging the existing social order.
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Although this is an academic book, it is written in lively, limpid prose, as if McNeill is drawing his expressiveness from the activities he describes - things that are 'felt, not talked about'. His describes his own time in the army where during close order drill he experienced 'A strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in a collective ritual'.
It could be argued that this feeling of boundary loss, of 'I' becoming 'We' is the purpose of any ritual. But McNeill embeds the phenomena in the muscular and draws on studies showing the brain's physiological response to movement. He describes ancient oarsman rowing in pairs to the beat of the drum, keeping perfect time to avoid the danger that any modern rower will recognise: a 'deviation of more than a few inches, and missing by a fraction of a second, meant a tangle of oars and loss of momentum'. Keeping together in time is about more than just bonding - it's about keeping efficient and staying safe.