Dancing in Sacaan (Worldbuilding)

[Author’s note: this was originally published on my Patreon back in May]

Humans and human-shaped beings love to dance – across time, across space, across cultures, we’ve been moving our bodies to music for thousands upon thousands of years. Most fantasy cultures are no different, however human-shaped they may or may not be (though now I’m thinking about how dances would develop to take into account things like wings and tails and centaur body-patterns, and that’s a whole ‘nother rabbithole right there) – as soon as folks develop rhythm, they’ll want to move their bodies to it one way or another.

In the world of Argentum, much like in our own world, every culture and country has at least one dance they call their own, though for the purposes of this post we’re only going to look at the styles common in Sacaan (not least because they’re the only ones I’ve actually put a lot of thought into yet). 

So! Sacaask folk tend to split their dances into two distinct styles: boot dances (fast, acrobatic group dances) and slipper dances (often slower, more court-type dances). Both types are danced by all genders, and there’re some dances which blur the boundaries between the two – faster slipper dances or slower boot dances can often be danced in either style.

Boot dances tend towards faster music with a lot of clapping and stamping, and , whether outdoors or indoors, are danced in outdoor boots (which means they absolutely ruin wooden floors if danced in hobnails). Usually either all the dancers dance together, or two-or-more ‘sides’ dance in competition (real or pretended). If it’s a sides dance, expect to see one to three dancers from each side moving to the middle of the space to duel/show off at each other, including mock-fighting and moves which, if they’re not performed perfectly, have a tendency to send one or more of the dancers tumbling headlong off the side of the dancefloor.  

Slipper dances, by contrast, are danced indoor-only, tend to be slower than boot dances (though not always), and are danced in specially-made dancing slippers (unsurprisingly) or soft-soled indoor boots. Traditional slipper dance tends more towards a role-split than boot dance, though in role-split dances women can dance the ‘buck’ role and men the ‘doe’ (and third-gender/non-binary folk can dance whichever suits them).

Both slipper and boot dances can include bells (worn on the dancers’ wrists, ankles/legs and/or belts), but boot dances can also include sticks, swords, and even polearms – a holdover from their origin as displays of martial prowess at post-battle celebrations.   There are slipper dances which include weaponry, but they tend to be reserved for very special occasions – there’s a wedding dance which involves an exchange of  knives mid-dance, for instance. 

Before the Revolution, boot dance was rare in certain quarters of the city – while acknowledging it as part of Sacaan’s cultural heritage, the upper class tended to prefer slipper dance as the style of choice, and boot dance was primarily confined to taverns in Steepside and other lower-class areas (as well as the homes of very traditional nobility, who had no truck with fads and fashions). The aftermath of the Revolution saw a sudden influx of mercenaries into the Sacaask nobility – and, unlike their forerunners, these newer nobles saw no need to leave the dances of the camp in the field. As a result, boot dance suddenly gained a foothold in upper-class society once again, and now, almost a quarter of a century later, even the most fashionable parties are likely to have a least a few boot dances on the card.

(The lower class of the city never lost their attachment to either style – both slipper and boot dances have been danced in Sacaask slums as long as there’s been a city)

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