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Riviere, J. (1930). Magical Regeneration by Dancing. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 11:340.

(1930). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 11:340

Magical Regeneration by Dancing

Joan Riviere

Shortly after the publication of the paper by Ella Sharpe entitled 'Certain Aspects of Sublimation and Delusion', the following interesting communication was made to me, which affords plain enough evidence of the truth—in at least one individual—of one of the writer's contentions in that paper, namely, that dancing can represent the act of re-creating a dead object, of magically bringing it to life again. She concludes that: 'Dancing was a magical performance, associated in its origin with food (life) and death'. And: 'The dead are made alive again by the magical acts (of the dancer)'.

I was visiting the mother of a little girl aged just four; another baby had recently been born, a boy aged three months at this time. The mother is an up-to-date and highly intelligent woman; she is not interested in psycho-analysis, and knows very little about it. She is quite well versed in anthropology and the academic type of psychology. She discussed the little girl Jane's jealousy of the baby, and told me how marked it had been and the efforts she had made to deal with it. She then said, 'But there is another thing in Jane which I notice at the present time. She shows a very striking tendency to ritualistic performances and ceremonies. It makes one think of savage rites. For instance, this is the sort of game she plays now. She and I sit at a table pretending to eat; we have little toy plates and dishes with sham food stuck on them, like bacon, a loaf, a fish, etc. When we have pretended to eat them, Jane gets down from her chair and says, "Now I must make them grow on the plates again".

She then performs an elaborate dance, which, of course, she has invented entirely herself, round and round the table. This is quite complicated and very carefully executed. She then says, "Now they are all grown again", and then sits down at the table again with me.

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