Dance has always been a lightning conductor for religious and moral attitudes. Fundamentalists of many schools and cultures have condemned it as the expression of humanity’s baser, more turbulent and sinful self.
Back in the high puritan era of 17th-century England, when Oliver Cromwell tried to ban all forms of public dance, from court masques and ballets to maypole dancing, the effect of the prohibition was to create a generation for whom dance represented sin. When King Charles II was restored to the throne, reopened the theaters and encouraged dance and music, Samuel Pepys felt he might be putting himself in moral jeopardy, the first time he tried a few dance steps at a party: “At last we fell to dancing, the first time that ever I did in my life,” he wrote on April 10, 1661, “[and] I did wonder to see myself to do.”
Pepys’ fear of the moral fallout from dancing was confirmed when he and his wife Elizabeth took professional lessons, and the sexual attraction they formed for their respective female and male tutors created a period of turbulent jealousy (albeit one of many) in their marriage. Pepys was relieved finally when all the capering stopped. He could forget about mastering the tricky maneuvers of the coranto or courante, and at last fall “to quiet of mind and business again.”
In Egypt, tragically, quiet of mind and business have become very distant goals.