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La piaga del ballo, l’epidemia più strana di tutti i tempi

La piaga del ballo, l'epidemia più strana di tutti i tempi

È il pomeriggio del 14 luglio del 1518 quando, riportano le cronache, una donna di nome Frau Troffea comincia a ballare per le strade di Strasburgo. Centinaia di abitanti di Strasburgo iniziarono improvvisamente a danzare fino alla morte
Sulle prime, suo marito pensa che Troffea si comporti così per un capriccio: vuole farlo vergognare, e per questo sta dando spettacolo con i vicini. Per un po' la segue, le chiede di smetterla. La supplica. L'insulta. La minaccia.
L'afferra per un braccio e lei si divincola. Fa una giravolta, scalcia, salta. Scuote il corpo come una viverna. Suo marito la manda al diavolo e se ne torna a casa. I vicini restano a guardarla, incuriositi. Qualcuno applaude, molti la prendono in giro. Le donne, nel vederla, si fanno il segno della croce e gli uomini ridono disgustati. I bambini si sfidano per vedere chi ha il coraggio di ballare con l'invasata.
Troffea continua a danzare, senza fermarsi neppure un istante e ha sul volto un'espressione che, a lungo andare, fa passare a tutti la voglia di ridere. Le amiche l'implorano di smetterla e lei grida, invoca i santi, e giura che non può farlo. Giura su quanto ha di più caro. Giura sulla sua testa e sulla testa dei suoi figli mentre si contorce e scuote braccia e gambe. "Non riesco! Non posso! Aiutatemi!"
Tutti la guardano, nessuno sa che fare.
Solo al tramonto, Troffea ha un po' di requie. Lo sforzo è stato tale, che alla fine collassa. Stramazza a terra e lì rimane fino al mattino. Qualcuno di buon cuore riesce a farle bere un po' d'acqua, a mandare giù un boccone di pane.
All'alba, Troffea si risveglia. E la tortura ricomincia.
Con sgomento di tutti e il terrore che le rode le viscere, Frau Troffea riprende a ballare. Sono passi sconclusionati, i suoi, che non assomigliano a nessuna danza conosciuta. Braccia, gambe e busto si muovono in ogni direzione. Troffea non ha nessun potere sul suo corpo. È come essere finita nel Reno e la corrente la trascina, la piega, le strappa il respiro.
E poi il fiume straripa, e travolge anche gli altri.
Entro sei giorni da quando è cominciata, un centinaio di persone si è unito alla danza di Troffea. Se ne conteranno 400 a fine agosto. È l'epidemia di ballo più estesa da quella che, ne 1374, coinvolse mezza Europa.
L'Autorità interviene. Si convocano i medici più dotti perché si pronuncino sul caso, mentre le strade di Strasburgo sono ormai invase da orde di ballerini dai piedi insanguinati che si contorcono fino a svenire, per poi ricominciare a danzare da capo.
Sebbene non ci sia concordanza sulla diagnosi, tra chi propende per uno sbilanciamento degli umori, e chi punta il dito contro le donne e le loro suggestioni uterine, la proposta è unanime: “Lasciateli ballare”, dicono i dottori, “e prima o poi la pianteranno”.
Nel giro di una notte, Strasburgo si riempie di palchi in legno sui quali i ballerini vengono costretti a salire. E ballano, ballano senza potersi fermare, e ora li accompagnano anche dei musici che intonano le loro canzoni adattandole al ritmo sconclusionato degli ossessi.
Va a finire che anche qualcuno dei musicanti si senta “trascinato dal ballo” e abbandoni il proprio strumento per unirsi alle danze. La febbre del ballo è contagiosa.
Per agosto la piaga non è cessata. Ormai i palchi strabordano di gambe e piedi che si muovono in maniera convulsa. I decessi non si contano più e qualcuno avanza una stima di 15 morti a settimana tra i ballerini, sopraffatti dal caldo, dalla fatica, dall'assenza di cibo e riposo.
L'Autorità ne ha abbastanza e ordina lo sgombero. I musicisti vengono licenziati, i dottori con i loro consigli cacciati a pedate. I palchi abbattuti. Danze e musiche sono proibite fino a settembre, pena la frusta e multe salate.
Frau Troffea e gli altri vengono caricati a forza su dei carri e condotti in processione verso il santuario di san Vito, il protettore dei danzatori. Ormai è chiaro a tutti che la causa dell'epidemia è da ricercarsi in un evento soprannaturale, se del diavolo, che ha posseduto Troffea e chi le è andato appresso, o di Dio, che così facendo li ha puniti di chissà quale colpa, non è importante. L'importante è che finisca.
I carri impiegano tre giorni per raggiungere il santuario. Molti dei ballerini guariscono durante il viaggio. Qualcuno muore stroncato da un infarto, dal caldo e dallo sforzo.
Giunti al santuario, i posseduti vengono fatti scendere dai carri. A ciascuno viene legata tra le mani una croce e fatte calzare ai piedi scarpe di stoffa rossa. 
Una processione danzante sfila nel santuario.
Troffea è la prima a guarire. Con un grido si lancia a terra, esausta ma libera. Uno ad uno, tutti gli altri la seguono.
L'epidemia del ballo di Strasburgo, che si è lasciata dietro qualche centinaio di morti, termina prodigiosamente così come era cominciata sul finire di un agosto torrido e soffocante.






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