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A History of Pantomime by R. J. Broadbent

By the aid of the Terpsichorean Art


"The

Greeks," mentions Butteux, applied the term "Dancing" to all measured movements, even to military marching. They danced anywhere and everywhere; and we are told that both their limbs and bodies spoke.

Cybele was supposed by the Greeks to have taught dancing on Mount Ida to the Corybantes, and they also say that it was in their country that Apollo revealed the Terpsichorean Art, and that of Music and Poetry.

After all this, it is not very surprising that they make claim for the innovation of Pantomime. This, of course, we know is different, as we have seen that, from time immemorial Pantomimic scenes and dances have been represented. Cassiodorus attributes its institution to Philistion; Athenaens assigns it to Rhodamanthus, or to Palamedes.

With the Greeks, Pantomimes became very popular, and they were distinguished by various names. Before they began their Tragedies the Greeks used to give a Pantomimic display. The principal Pantomimists were known as _Ethologues_, meaning painters of manners. One of the most celebrated of these Mimes was Sophron of Syracuse. In depicting the conduct of man so faithfully, the Pantomimes of the Greek Mimes served to teach and inculcate useful moral lessons. The moral philosophy of the Mime, Sophron, was so pure that Plato kept a book of his poems under his pillow when on his death-bed. Besides these Moralities, as they were termed, there were,

in addition, light pieces of a farcical kind, in the portrayal of which the Mimes were equally as successful as in the other species.

The dancing of the Greeks was an actual language, in which all sentiments and passages were interpreted. By the aid of the Terpsichorean Art, Professor Desrat says, "That the Greeks, a nation of heroes, trained themselves in the art of hand-to-hand combat."

"Dancing," says another writer, "and imitative acting in the lower stages of civilization are identical, and in the sacred dances of ancient Greece we may trace the whole Dramatic Art of the modern world. The Spartans practised dancing as a gymnastic exercise, and made it compulsory upon all children from the age of five."

And we are also told that religious processions went with song and dance (and, of course, Pantomime), to the Egyptian temples; the Cretan chorus sang hymns to the Greek gods; David danced in procession before the Ark of the Covenant; and that we are to "Praise the Lord with the sound of the trumpet, praise Him with the psaltery and the harp; praise Him with the timbrel and the _dance_."

Aristotle speaks of Mimetic dances three hundred years before the Augustan era. He also says that dancers want neither poetry or music, as by the assistance of measure and cadence only they can imitate human manners, actions, and passions.

Again, "Homer, describing the employment of the Delian priestesses, or Nuns, of the order of St. Apollo of Delos, that they were great adepts in the Art of Mimicry, and that part of the entertainment which they afforded to the numerous people of different nations; who formed their congregations was, as the poet expresses it, from their _being skilled to imitate the voices and the pulsation or measure of all nations, and so exactly was their song adapted that every man would think he himself was singing_."


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