This entry is part of the Lexicon of Klezmer Terminology (LKT). The LKT compiles a wide array of source materials that shed light on the historical and contemporary state of knowledge about klezmer music. Each entry includes a number of citations from primary and secondary sources that include or refers to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. By clicking on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation, you get the full reference.
“A weird Totentanz (death dance) was also part of another strange wedding custom. During the time of the great epidemics sweeping over Europe, mass hysteria led to the custom of the uniting in marriage of two poor orphans, the ceremony taking place in the cemetery, and the rituals and dances being carried out with the whole community in attendance.” Lapson 1943, p. 458-60.
“‘Danza de la Muerta,’ a remarkable dance spectacle developed in Spain around the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th cent., is said to have been composed by a Jew...
Soon, Dances of Death sprang up in Roman and German forms. The Christians performed them during church processions; the Jews at weddings and family festivals, sometimes even as late as the 19th cent. Glückel of Hameln, who lived in the latter part of the 17th cent., recorded in her famous memoirs that at the wedding of a relative ‘they concluded their performance with a truly splendid Dance of Death.’ The dance she refers to was probably a German version of the death dance.” Lapson 1943, pp. 461-62.
“Dance of Death: A man dances as the angel of death. He chooses someone to dance with him and act out his leaving this world.” Roskies and Roskies 1975, p. 232.
“Masked dancers entered and presented different poses quite nicely and suitably to the entertainment. They ended with the Death Dance, It was all very splendidly done.” [Cleve, near Amsterdam, 17th century]. Schwartz 1937, pp. 290-92.