The outbreak began in July 1518 when a woman, Mrs. Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. This lasted somewhere between four and six days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers, predominantly female. Some of these people would die from heart attacks, strokes, or exhaustion. One report indicates that for a period, the plague killed around fifteen people per day. However, the sources of the city of Strasbourg at the time of the events did not mention the number of deaths, even if there were fatalities.
Historical documents, including “physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council” are clear that the victims danced.[ It is not known why these people danced, some even to their deaths.
As the dancing plague worsened, concerned nobles sought the advice of local physicians, who ruled out astrological and supernatural causes, instead announcing that the plague was a “natural disease” caused by “hot blood”. However, instead of prescribing bleeding, authorities encouraged more dancing, in part by opening two guildhalls and a grain market, and even constructing a wooden stage. The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would recover only if they danced continuously night and day. To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving.[ The strategy was a disaster; after those policies were applied the illness underwent a dramatic growth. Performing dances in more public spaces facilitated the spread of the psychic “contagion”.
Historian John Waller stated that a marathon runner could not have lasted the intense workout that these men and women did hundreds of years ago.
There were a couple of wild theories but not even poisoning explains why they did it so long or until some died? Can you imagine just having the strange urge to dance yourself to death? Me either, no one really knows what on earth made these people act in such a way but it is an interesting story.