Whoosh! Issue 15 -
December 1997

A Member Opinion
By Linda Knighton
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1103 words

Privatecouch dancesare a mere 20 dinars.

The "head" Fury gives Ares some personal attention
in THE FURIES (47/301).

[01] I recently had an exchange with a friend about the XWP episode, THE FURIES (#47). She asked me what I thought about the opening scene with Ares and the Furies and whether I found them convincing. I did not. The primary reason of my opinion being that whoever put that scene together knew nothing about Sacred Dance.

[02] Sacred Dance is a method of energy building. Examples can be found in cultures as far flung as the ancient Greek, the "carol" of the Spanish Mass, and right into XWP's backyard--the dances of the Maori people. Apparently, they went for the "pretty" rather than the meaningful. I teach Sacred Dancing from several cultures. I have also been taught by such experts as Ailo Gaup and Sandra Ingermann. Trust me on this.

[03] The type of energy needed in THE FURIES (#47), in order to move the audience to a place of belief, is not the balanced twirling shown in the actual episode. The first section was the Furies dancing to a decision. Alright, it is unusual, but I can live with that idea. Traditionally, a dance of this sort was slow and hypnotic. The idea was to keep the body off balance so that the dancer was like a wobbling coin after it had been spun on its edge and would fall one way or the other soon.

[04] This should have been done by having the dancers use a syncopated step, and ending the sequence on their toes. This makes the eye of the beholder wonder where they will fall. There is a traditional dance of the Basque people that has the dancer dance as close as possible to a half full glass of wine. The tension builds for those seeing him, as the custom is that if one drop of wine is spilled, the whole village will have bad luck the next year. People watch the feet carefully. Then, the dancer leaps, placing his feet on the rim of the glass! When he jumps off, the glass will often wobble. People hold their breaths. Will the wine spill, or no?

[05] That is what we should have been feeling in THE FURIES (#47). Instead, we got some swirling around. Perhaps it was supposed to be sexy? Then, as the madness was sent, the dance should have turned to one of a crescendoing fury. Could that be why they were called the Furies, hmmm?

[06] The Saami people from Arctic Europe have a dance they do which is related to the old Berserkergang Dances of the Norse people. The dance begins with the dancer holding a hand drum in one hand. They beat the rhythm for themselves. They are bent at the waist, imitating a bear on the horizon. They play the role of the bear, while increasing the beat to one of pure savagery. Berserkers used to claim that they became the bear. They went into battle and were a danger to both friend and foe. That is what I expected on Xena. But no, they did not go there.

[07] That is too bad, because the old tales of the berserker tearing into an army and hacking them to pieces, then coming home and killing their own family are chilling indeed. Here is an example:

This fury, which was called berserkergang, occurred not only in the heat of battle, but also during laborious work. Men who were thus seized performed things which otherwise seemed impossible for human power. This condition is said the have begun with shivering, chattering of teeth, and a chill in the body, and the then the face swelled and changed its color. With this was connected a great hot-headedness, which at last went over into a great rage, under which they howled as wild animals, bit the edges of their shields, and cut down everything they met without discriminating between friend and foe. When this condition ceased, a great dulling of the mind and feebleness followed, which could last for one or several days.

Fabing, Howard D. "On Going Berserk: A Neurochemical Inquiry", Scientific Monthly. Vol. 83 (Nov. 1956), pp.232-237.

[08] And again in Egil's Saga:

Skallagrim grew so powerful that he picked Thord up bodily and dashed him down so hard that every bone in his body was broken and he died on the spot. Then Skallagrim grabbed Egil. Egil was saved by a servant-woman, who was slain herself before Skallagrim came out of his fit, but had she not intervened he certainly would have killed his own son.

Hallakarva, Gunnora. "Berserkergang", Tournaments Illuminated (Spring 1989).

[09] Being kind, the Norse and Saami do not live too close to New Zealand, but the local Maori people have a welcome dance that could do just as well as a basis for this type of Sacred Dance. They make hideous faces, stamp their feet, stick their tongues out and generally act as threatening as humanly possible. This, gradually speeded up, would have done the trick as well.

[10] I know the folks at XWP cannot be experts in every area, but a little research could have really made THE FURIES (#47) exceptional, especially since their Maori neighbors could have been of great help. I think a basic awareness of the way our minds are affected by our bodies' movements is important in telling a story. Gabrielle knows this. She was practicing her movements for the story of the Bacchae in A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39).

[11] In conclusion, I must say that more research would have really helped this episode.

Theycould have justdanced their way out.

The Furies check out.


Linda Knighton Linda Knighton
Linda Knighton, also known as Simahoyo, is a resident of Seattle. She holds a BA in historical research from Boise State University, was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and a title searcher. She now works in Washington State Politics as a fundraiser for Washington State NARAL. She is the former Co-chair of the Association of Southeastern Tribes, a member of the Pan-American Indian Association and is active in Native Community activities.

Simahoyo is currently writing a novel set in Germany in the Sixth Century.
Favorite episode: THE PRICE (#44)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "I'll rise, but I refuse to shine." BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (#48)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (#04)
Least favorite episode: GIANT KILLER (#27); FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (#40)

Other Whoosh! articles by this author:
    "Xena: Warrior Princess: A Native American Perspective"
   Whoosh! #03

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