For the Social Anthropologist in You Just Screaming to be Set Free
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 24 Dec 97 13:40:01 -0800
Subject: For the Social Anthropologist in You Just Screaming to be Set Free
Forwarded-by: "Blech, Kerry E" <Kerry.Blech@PSS.Boeing.com>
Forwarded-by: Apiarist <Apiarist@aol.com>
The Butcher Dance
A guy has spent five years traveling all around the world making a
documentary on Native dances. At the end of this time, he has every single
native dance of every indigenous culture in the world on film. He winds up
in Alice Springs so he pops into a pub for a well earned beer.
He gets talking to one of the local Aborigines and tells him about his
project. The Aborigine asks the guy what he thought of the "Butcher Dance."
The guy's a bit confused and says "Butcher Dance? What's that?"
"What? You no see Butcher Dance?"
"No, I've never heard of it."
"Oh mate. You crazy. How you say you film every native dance if you no
see Butcher Dance?"
"UmmSUM. I got a corroborree on film just the other week. Is that what
"No no, not corroborree. Butcher Dance much more important than
"Oh, well how can I see this Butcher Dance then?"
"Mate, Butcher Dance right out bush. Many days travel to go see
"Look, I've been everywhere from the forests of the Amazon, to deepest
darkest Africa, to the frozen wastes of the Arctic filming these dances.
Nothing will prevent me from recording this one last dance."
"OK, mate. You drive north along highway towards Darwin. After you
drive 197 miles, you see dirt track veer off to left. Follow dirt track for
126 miles til you see big huge dead gum tree - biggest tree you ever see.
Here you gotta leave car, coz much to rough for driving. You strike out due
west into setting sun. You walk 3 days til you hit creek. You follow this
creek to Northwest. After 2 days you find where creek flows out of rocky
mountains. Much too difficult to cross mountains here though. You now head
south for half day til you see pass through mountains. Pass very difficult,
very dangerous. Take 2, maybe 3 days to get through rocky pass. When
through, head north-west for 4 days til reach big huge rock - 20 ft high
and shaped like man's head. From rock, walk due west for 2 days and you find
village.Here you see Butcher Dance."
So the guy grabs his camera crew and equipment and heads out. After a
couple of hours he finds the dirt track. The track is in a shocking state
and he's forced to crawl along at a snails pace and so he doesn't reach the
tree until dusk and he's forced to set up camp for the night. He sets out
bright and early the following morning. His spirits are high and he's
excited about the prospect of capturing on film this mysterious dance which
he had never heard mention of before. True to the directions he has been
given, he reaches the creek after three days and follows it for another two
until they reach the rocky mountains. The merciless sun is starting to take
its toll by this time and his spirits are starting to flag, but wearily he
trudges on until he finds the pass through the hills - nothing will prevent
him from completing his life's dream.
The mountains prove to be every bit as treacherous as their guide said
and at times they almost despair of getting their bulky equipment through.
But after three and a half days of back breaking effort they finally force
their way clear and continue their long trek. When they reach the huge
rock, four days later, their water is running low and their feet are covered
with blisters but they steel themselves and head out on the last leg of
their journey. Two days later they virtually stagger into the village where
the natives feed them and and give them fresh water and they begin to feel
like new men.
Once he's recovered enough, the guy goes before the village chief and
tells him that he has come to film there Butcher Dance.
"Oh mate. Very bad you come today. Butcher Dance last night. You too
late. You miss dance."
"Well, when do you hold the next dance?"
"Not til' next year."
"Well, I've come all this way. Couldn't you just hold an extra dance
for me, tonight?"
"No, no, no! Butcher Dance very holy. Only hold once a year. If hold
more, gods get very angry and destroy village! You want see Butcher Dance
you come back next year."
The guy is devastated. But he has no other option but to head back to
civilization and back home.
The following year, he heads back to Australia and, determined not to
miss out again, sets out a week earlier than last time. He is quite willing
to spend a week in the village before the dance is performed in order to
ensure he is present to witness it.
However, right from the start things go wrong. Heavy rains that year
have turned the dirt track to mud and the car gets bogged every few miles,
finally forcing them to abandon their vehicles and slog through the mud on
foot almost half the distance to the tree. They reach the creek and the
mountains without any further hitch, but halfway through the ascent of the
mountain they are struck by a fierce storm which rages for several days,
during which they are forced to cling forlornly to the mountainside until
it subsides. It would be suicide to attempt to scale the treacherous paths
in the face of such savage elements. Then, before they have traveled a mile
out from the mountains, one of the crew sprains his ankle badly which slows
down the rest of their journey to the rock and then the village enormously.
Eventually, having lost all sense of how long they have been travelling,
they stagger into the village at about 12:00 noon.
"The Butcher Dance!" gasps the guy. "Please don't tell me I'm too late!"
The chief recognizes him and says "No, white fella. Butcher Dance
performed tonight. You come just in time."
Relieved beyond measure, the crew spend the rest of the afternoon
setting up their equipment - preparing to capture the night's ritual on
As dusk falls, the natives start to cover there bodies in white paint
and adorn themselves in all manner of bird's feathers and animal skins.
Once darkness has settled fully over the land, the natives form a circle
around a huge roaring fire.
A deathly hush descends over performers and spectators alike as a
wizened old figure with elaborate swirling designs covering his entire body
enters the circle and begins to chant. Some sort of witch doctor or medicine
man, figures the guy and he whispers to the chief "What's he doing?"
"Hush" whispers the chief. "You first white man ever to see most sacred
of our rituals. Must remain silent. Holy man, he asks that the spirits of
the dreamworld watch as we demonstrate our devotion to them through our
dance and, if they like our dancing, will they be so gracious as to watch
over us and protect us for another year."
The chanting of the Holy man reaches a stunning crescendo before he
removes himself from the circle. From somewhere the rhythmic pounding of
drums booms out across the land and the natives begin to sway to the
stirring rhythm. The guy is becoming caught up in the fervour of the moment
himself. This is it. He now realizes beyond all doubt that his wait has
not been in vain.
He is about to witness the ultimate performance of rhythm and movement
ever conceived by mankind. The chief strides to his position in the circle
and, in a big booming voice, starts to sing: "You butch yer right arm in.
You butch yer right arm out. You butch yer right arm in and you shake it
© 1997 Peter Langston