Strange dances from around the world

Capoeira | Strange dances from around the world

Capoeira | Strange dances from around the world

As anyone who’s seen the video for Smooth Criminal knows, the line between dancing and fighting can occasionally become blurred – violent scenes in action movies are sometimes described as balletic, for example, and it’s impossible to “mosh” to heavy metal without someone getting a bloody nose. However, nowhere is the boundary between a boogie and a beating as unclear as it is in capoeira.

Sufi whirling | Strange dances from around the world

Sufi whirling | Strange dances from around the world

For most dancers, the closest they get to meditation is sitting quietly in the chillout room of a nightclub, while some wide-eyed raver explains to them how we’re, like, all the same, really. For the Mevlevi order of Sufi dervishes, however, dancing itself is considered to be a form of physical meditation.

Schuhplattler | Strange dances from around the world

Schuhplattler | Strange dances from around the world

Schuhplattler is a traditional German folk dance from Bavaria. Usually, schuhplattler displays feature groups of men slapping themselves (and sometimes each other) on the knees, the thighs and the soles of their shoes. Amazingly, the dance is probably over a thousand years old – it was first described in 1050AD. It’s nice to know that schuhplattler has such a long history (because it would seem even stranger if it had been invented in, say, 1995).

Hopak | Strange dances from around the world

Hopak | Strange dances from around the world

Popularly known as cossack dancing, or “that sitting down, kicking legs dance”, hopak is the national dance of Ukraine. The name comes from the Ukrainian word for jump, as well as the exclamation “hop”, which is an expression of surprise or amazement – somehow it makes the dance seem even more fun to imagine that the dancers are all surprised by their movements.

Morris dancing | Strange dances from around the world

Morris dancing | Strange dances from around the world

A series on dances from around the world would seem incomplete without Morris dancing, even if familiarity may have blinded us to just how odd it is. For those who don’t know, morris is a traditional English folk dance in which groups of heavily-bearded men tie bells to their legs and wave their handkerchiefs around. The first recorded mention of morris dancing dates from 1448, when a payment of seven shillings was made to a group of dancers (possibly in an attempt to make them go away).