Writing about magic kisses the other day made me think of another common trope: the Magic Dance.
Of course, the magic dance isn’t just a song from Labyrinth. Dancing (and we’ll throw singing in there, just for fun) is often used in various magic rituals or spells in movies, books, and other mediums. Though, depending on the genre, there can be some gray areas between dances that are actually magical, those that are purely ritualistic, and those that are somewhere in between.
Let’s look at a few examples of magic dances in different mediums.
This dance is knowing as a “sending,” and it’s an important plot point in Final Fantasy X. It’s a ritual that’s used to release the souls of the dead and send them on their way to the “Farplane” (the afterlife). According to the game lore, without the sending ritual, the souls of the dead might remain behind, angry and confused after their deaths. This, of course, results in the person becoming undead. Though the game takes a unique angle on it, since the “unsent” aren’t zombies, vampires, or any other traditional type of undead. Instead of staking them through the heart or shooting them in the head, the only way to defeat them is to perform this magic dance.
The Final Fantasy series has several other types of magic dances. These include the Songstress in Final Fantasy X-2, who can use songs and dances to blind enemies, mute them, or put them to sleep; Mog in Final Fantasy VI, who can use dances to summon the elements and attack enemies with magic fire, sandstorms, blizzards, and so on; and the Dancer class in Final Fantasy Tactics, who can disable, slow, and damage enemies with their magic dances.
Next, let’s look at a commonly-known type of magic dance from real life: Rain Dances.
Many people are probably only familiar with rain dances from movies and television. Many of the portrayals are likely to be inaccurate, especially those seen in cartoons. Though there are still places where the ritual is performed to this day, and you can read up on the specifics of the ritual on websites like Indians.org.
The basics of a rain dance involve a group of people, garbed in ritualistic clothing, performing an intricate dance that was said to bring forth rain for the entire season. According to the article linked above, it was more commonly performed in dry and arid regions, which certainly makes sense, since those areas would have a greater need.
Despite this, most people would probably argue that the rain dance ritual is nothing more than a superstition, and that it doesn’t actually bring the rain. However, even if you don’t believe in the literal magic of the ritual, it still has important cultural significance. It’s a ritual that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries and is still performed today by the descendants of those who performed it ages ago. It’s that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
These first two examples cover fictional dances that can be used to summon magical effects as well as real life rituals that some believe to have a supernatural effect. But I’d like to discuss one more type of magic dance: A magical spell that makes people dance.
This is essentially the opposite of the first two examples. In the earlier examples, the dances themselves were used to create some sort of magical effect. But in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Once More With Feeling,” it’s a magic spell that creates the dance. It’s basically a form of mind control, which forces people to break out into song and dance at the bidding of a demon in a leisure suit (and as he explains, they burst into fire if the magical energies from the song and dance go on for too long).
Of course, Buffy isn’t the only time there’s ever been a magic effect that makes people dance. There’s a spell in Dungeons and Dragons called “Otto’s Irresistible Dance,” which, as the name says, makes a character dance irresistibly (which makes it hard for them to continue fighting a battle). There have also been some TV shows and movies where a villain takes control of someone’s body with mind control or “puppeteering” powers and forces them to dance (possibly fulfilling a romantic fantasy for the puppeteer). Or you could have something like what happens in the movie Beetlejuice, where ghosts possess people as part of a haunting and force them to sing and dance in an attempt to scare them (it doesn’t work out the way they planned).
There’s sure to be plenty of other examples of magical dancing in various forms of media, but these have always been some of the most memorable to me. So if you’re ever in the need of a little magic, remember these examples, and dance . . . like there’s no one watching.
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