The Renaissance Faire Danse Macabre

I have a soft spot for the tradition of Danse Macabre enactments as part of the Renaissance Faire circuit’s grassroots, DIY amusement park vibe. Rather like the modern, American take on the Day of the Dead, that tradition stretches back to the counterculture of 1970s California.

The original “Bones Band” was founded by an artist/musician named Greg Dana, a.k.a. Grego, who discovered Hans Holbein the Younger’s 16th century images of the Danse Macabre while researching historical percussion instruments:

As I dug deeper into the subject it proved to be a rich mulch of philosophical, spiritual, political, and artistic associations. The theatrical potential was obvious, so a course was set and embarked upon.

Dana built replicas of the instruments and gathered some like-minded folk to embody Holbein’s imagery at a Northern Californian festival. Initially an unsanctioned “guerilla”-style performance, the Danse became a popular attraction and, with the national expansion of Faires during the 1980s, inspired numerous similar performance troupes.

Memento mori ergo carpe diem!

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