Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oktoberfest is More Than Beer

Last night I went to a local Oktoberfest and had one hell of a good time. I seriously think they stole my grandmothers recipe for Sauerbraten; it was that good. About two hours after dinner I even managed a snack: a big fat braut with saurkraut and horseradish. Not on wiener bun, but on a hard crusted roll. I'm ready for another one of them today.

And the beer! Warstiener Oktoberfest on tap evrywhere you looked; life is good. I even bought the plastic souvenier mug for 2 bucks. The steins were $38, and a little pricey for me. The weather was perfect. Just a little warm if you were in one of the tents, but out under the trees in the biergarten it was perfect.

But that's not the topic of this essay.

One of the entertainments was German Folk Dancing, like this video I found on YouTube.

I have never thought much about dancing- I was never very good at it anyway- but being in a philosophical mood I did start to examine the meaning and uses of dance as a mating ritual.

Every culture has traditional folk dances. Usually fairly complex patterns of motion and interaction with other dancers set to a specific tune or rhythm, they sometimes function as a story-telling medium.

But here is a function I didn't think of until last night. Why have the dances at all?

Darwin's theory of Survival of the Fittest is a good place to start. Everyone looks for the fittest mate available to them, and traditional dances are designed to showcase some of the traits looked for in a mate; coordination, memory, ability to interact with others and physical prowess. The basic traits that are needed to survive and need to be passed on to the next generation so they can thrive.

Prior to the dance, these skills would have been showcased during the Hunt, or in other communal activities that as society became more industrial- even 2000 years ago industry and trade had replace the tribal community, even though it was a very rudimentary industry- communal events were created where the young could be exposed to one another and the evaluation of potential mates begun.

And the ritual dances were born.

If you couldn’t do the steps, maintain the timing or remember the intricate patterns, then your worth as a potential mate was limited by those failures.

This has sort of been updated to the “Cool Kids” ideal, and fitting into the various levels of modern society and the place where the mating rituals are most often performed today, far from the watchful eyes of parents: High School.

The rituals are not time honored and based on traditional actives, but vary generation to generation, school by school and even year to year. They aren’t prepared or governed by the adults for the most part, but are developed and governed by the young adults themselves and the self appointed social arbiters of the day.

What does it mean in the end? Hell; I don’t know.

I just have one question:

Is it this rush away from tradition one of the reasons our culture is disintegrating as we watch?

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