Dancing was always a physical pleasure. At times it was condemned as devilish but on the other hand it was also considered a most sound exercise and a supreme manifestation of good manners. The historical evidence of this complex but elusive art during the Middle Ages is scarce. Some hints and traces nevertheless allow a hypothetical reconstruction of its presence in Europe and hence also on a small territory now called Slovenia. The paper will discuss known records on European medieval dancing in connection with this territory as well as some other 13th and 14th century records on dancing and accompanying musicians, culminating in an interpretation of pictorial and literary evidences on local dance and its social function in the 15th century, making a distinction between dancing in noble societies and perception of dance by illiterate peasant population.
The paper will explore the notion, and even explode the myth, that a particular type of occupation existed for some impaired people, namely the figure of the disabled person as (courtly) dwarf and fool, which appears to be more a creation of modern historians than medieval reality – there being very few references to dwarves at noble courts as fools or jesters before the 16th century. I will use the theoretical approaches of dominance and affection in the making of pets, as expounded by Yi-Fu Tuan, to discuss aspects of dwarves/fools as ‘pleasurable’ commodities for their courtly ‘owners’.