Stephan Eicher Disco Mania (1980)

A bit more than 500 years ago, on a sunny day in July, a woman stepped out onto the streets of Strasbourg and started dancing. What’s wrong with that you might ask? Not that much. Except that the woman didn’t stop. For days. 

Over time, other people joined in and started to dance alongside the woman who was, according to several sources, called Frau Troffea. After the first week, the crowd was already about three dozen strong. Over the course of time the group grew to several hundred people twirling day in and day out until they collapsed from exhaustion or physical pain. Some dancers allegedly even died from stroke or heart attacks.

What brought about the mysterious occurrence known as the “dancing plague of 1518” and “dance epidemic of 1518” is still unclear. Modern day theories consider food poisoning or stress-induced mass hysteria as potential causes. However, historical records indicate what brought the plague to an end: The authorities first banned music and those who kept dancing were ordered to participate in a ritual at the shrine of Saint Vitus. A strategy that worked, apparently.

Another dance mania—one that was a bit less dangerous—was caused by disco music in the 1970s. The popularity of the music genre and the dancing that came along with it inspired Swiss musician Stephan Eicher to write a tongue-in-cheek minimal wave piece called “Disco Mania” in 1980. 

Although this “disco mania” was supposedly less lethal than the Strasbourgian dancing plague back in the 16th century you should be warned: Eicher’s naïve sounding track is highly infectious. And it might cause a strong urge to dance. So beware!

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