Research Wednesday: Choreomania

As a writer, my ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes it can be spontaneous, like a suggestion from a friend, a flash of insight, or a memory from the past. But


ideas can also come from research, where I actively go and learn more about the world in order to find new and interesting things that I can incorporate into my stories. Each Wednesday, I’ll highlight a topic of research or something cool that I found which helped inspire me.

This idea came from listening to classical radio. I don’t remember the name of the piece that was being introduced, but the DJ was talking about the historical context of something that she

was about to play when she mentioned the idea of choreomania: the compulsion to dance. Although I was doing something else at the time, the name stuck with me, and when I sat down at my computer later that afternoon, I knew that I had to learn more.

Wikipedia gave me an article on Dancing Mania right away. It sounded too crazy to be true, but there they were, historical accounts of some mass psychosis across Europe where large groups of people danced in the streets. No one knew what caused it, although there were a number of theories, and we still don’t fully understand the phenomenon. What we do know is how wide it spread: thousands of people were involved in incidents across several centuries. Some people danced to the point of exhaustion, while others injured themselves in the process, and some even died.

I might have been able to make up something like this if I tried, but it’s just as good to find something this bizarre already out there. As I read, I imagined a scenario where something was making people dance, and it was creating chaos, and someone else had to figure out why it was happening and try to stop it. Now up the stakes by saying that most of the people who dance end up dying, and it’s spreading at an increasing rate, like a plague. Throw in hints of different causes–religious fervor, a curse, possession by demons, or a bite from a venomous animal–and the people trying to stop the dancing plague would have to pursue a lot of different possibilities while their time was running out.

The idea gave me shivers up and down my spine. I had a terrifying scenario, and I already had the perfect place to use it. Now I knew how I wanted the curse in Korinna’s story to manifest. A race against time to stop an entire city from dancing themselves to death? That’s just the kind of story that I would love to read–and have to write.

Photo credit: Julie70 / / CC BY-NC-SA


I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.