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Chapter One

Egyptian, Assyrian, Hebrew, and Phoenician Dancing. The Ritual Dance of Egypt. Dancing Examples from Tomb of Ur-ari-en-Ptah, 6th Dynasty, British Museum. Description of Dancing from Sir G. Wilkinson; of the Egyptian Pipes and Hieroglyphics of Dancing, &c. Phoenician Round Dances, from a Limestone Group found at Cyprus, and Bronze Patera from Idalium, Cyprus.

Page Two

The dresses of the females were light and of the finest texture, a loose flowing robe reaching to the ankles, sometimes with a girdle.
"In later times, it appears more transparent and folded in narrow pleats.[3] Some danced in pairs, holding each other's hand; others went through a succession of steps alone, both men and women; sometimes a man performed a solo to the sound of music or the clapping of hands.
"A favourite figure dance was universally adopted throughout the country, in which two partners, who were usually men, advanced toward each other, or stood face to face upon one leg, and having performed a series of movements, retired again in opposite directions, continuing to hold by one hand and concluding by turning each other round (see fig. 3).

Fig. 4: Egyptian hieroglyphic for 'dance.'
Fig. 4: Egyptian hieroglyphic
for "dance".

That the attitude was very common is proved by its having been adopted by the hieroglyphic (fig. 4) as the mode of describing 'dance.' Many of the positions of the dance illustrated in Gardner Wilkinson are used at the present day.

The ASSYRIANS probably danced as much as the other nations, but amongst the many monuments that have been discovered there is little dancing shown, and they were evidently more proud of their campaigns and their hunting than of their dancing.
A stern and strong people, although they undoubtedly had this amusement, we know little about it. Of the Phoenicians, their neighbours, we have some illustrations of their dance, which was apparently of a serious nature, judging by the examples which we possess, such as that (fig. 5) from Cyprus representing three figures in hooded cowls dancing around a piper.
It is a dance around a centre, as is also (fig. 6) that from Idalium in Cyprus. The latter is engraved around a bronze bowl and is evidently a planet and sun dance before a goddess, in a temple; the sun being the central object around which they dance, accompanied by the double pipes, the harp, and tabour.

Cyprian limestone group
Fig. 5: Cyprian limestone group of Phoenician dancers, about 6.5 in. high.

The Egyptian origin of the devotion is apparent in the details, especially in the lotus-smelling goddess (marked A on fig. 6) who holds the flower in the manner shown in an Egyptian painting in the British Museum (fig. 7).

Phoenician patera
Fig. 6: Phoenician patera, from Idalium, showing a religious ritual dance before a goddess in a temple round a sun emblem.

From the Phoenicians we have illustrated examples, but no record, whereas from their neighbours the Hebrews we have ample records in the Scriptures, but no illustrations.
It is, however, most probable that the dance with them had the traditional character of the nations around them or who had held them captive, and the Philistine dance (fig. 6) may have been of the same kind as that around the golden calf (Apis) of the desert (Exodus xxxii. v. 19).

Female figure
Fig. 7: Female figure
smelling a lotus.
From a painting
in the British Museum.

When they passed the Red Sea, Miriam and the maidens danced in chorus with singing and the beating of the timbrel (tambour). (Exodus xv. v. 1.)
King David not only danced before the ark (2 Samuel vi. v. 16), but mentions dancing in the 149th and 150th Psalm. Certain historians also tell us that they had dancing in their ritual of the seasons. Their dancing seems to have been associated with joy, as we read of "a time to mourn and a time to dance"; we find (Eccles. iii. v. 4) they had also the pipes: "We have piped to you and you have not danced" (Matthew xi. v. 17).
These dances were evidently executed by the peoples themselves, and not by public performers.

Dance of Bacchantes
Fig. 8: Dance of Bacchantes, painted by the ceramic painter, Hieron.
(British Museum)


Footnote 1: Egyptian music appears to have been of a complicated character and the double pipe or flutes were probably reeded, as with our clarionet. The left pipe had few stops and served as a sort of hautboy; the right had many stops and was higher.

Footnote 2: Vol. i., p. 503-8.

Footnote 3: There is a picture of an Egyptian gauffering machine in Wilkinson, vol. i., p. 185.

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