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Copyright © 1998-2008
Leonard Ellis
All Rights Reserved

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 Australia, 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 haven't seen the Butcher Dance?"

"No, I've never heard of it."

"Oh mate. You are crazy. How can you say you have filmed every native dance if you have not seen the Butcher Dance?"

"Umm. I got a corroboree on film just the other week. Is that what you mean?"  "No no, not corroboree. The Butcher Dance is much more important than corroboree." 

"Oh, well how can I see this Butcher Dance then?"

"Mate, Butcher Dance right out in the bush. It takes many days of travel to go see Butcher Dance."

"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. Leave your car there because it is too rough to drive. Walk due west for 8 days and you will find the village where you can see the 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.

Eight arduous days later they virtually stagger into the village where the natives feed them and give them fresh water. 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. It's very bad that you came today. The Butcher Dance was last night. You are too late. You missed 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!  The Butcher Dance very special. It is performed once a year. If it is performed more, the gods get very angry and destroy village! If you want see the 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 made the first leg of the trip very slow going and what should have been 8 days of hiking turned into 14 days because of various storms, injuries and such.

Eventually, having lost all sense of how long they have been traveling, they stagger into the village at about midday.

"The Butcher Dance!" gasps the guy.  "Please don't tell me I'm too late!"

The chief recognizes him and says "No, white fella. The Butcher Dance is tonight.  You came just in time."

Relieved beyond measure, the crew spends the rest of the afternoon setting up their equipment - preparing to capture the night's ritual on celluloid.

As dusk falls, the natives start to cover their 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 are the first white man ever to see most sacred of our rituals. Must remain silent. Holy man, he asks that the spirits of the dream world 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 moves 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 fervor 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 all about..."