“The Danse Macabre is an eternal round in which the dead alternate with the living. The dead lead the dance; indeed they are the only ones dancing.”
The Danse Macabre, Totentanz, or “Dance of Death” was an important milestone in medieval art. Ghastly figures, often skeletons with tattered hair and clothing, dance and converse with ordinary and extraordinary people of the age. Its origins as an artistic statement are still unclear; many scholars point to the Black Death and other disasters of the fourteenth century as prompting an interest in the macabre, while others suggest a civilization-wide focus on moral penitence and guilt culture as contributing to a larger obsession with death and the afterlife. Despite its heyday being in the Late Middle Ages, the Danse Macabre could still be seen into the contemporary arena in nineteenth- and twentieth-century classical music and the 1929 Silly Symphony animated cartoon “The Skeleton Dance” by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney.
Click on the thumbnail to watch Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony, “The Skeleton Dance.”