A guy spent five years traveling all around the world making a documentary on Native dances. At the end of this time, he had every
single native dance of every indigenous culture in the world on film — or so he thought. He wound up in Australia, in Alice Springs, so he popped into a pub for a well earned beer.
He got talking to one of the local Aborigines and told him about his project. The Aborigine asked the guy what he thought of the Butcher Dance.
“Butcher Dance?” he said, confused. “What’s that?”
“What? You didn’t see the Butcher Dance?”
“No, I’ve never heard of it.”
“Mate, you’re crazy,” the Aborigine replied. “How can you say you filmed every native dance if you haven’t seen the Butcher Dance?”
“Umm. I got a Corroborree on film just the other week. Is that what you mean?”
“No, no. The Butcher Dance is much more important than the Corroborree.”
“Oh,” the man said, his curiosity piqued. “Well how can I see this Butcher Dance then?”
“Mate, the Butcher Dance is way out in the wilderness. It’ll take you many days of travel to go see it.”
“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,” the Aborigine replied, shrugging. “You drive north along the highway towards Darwin. After you drive 197 miles, you’ll see a dirt track veer off to left. Follow the dirt track for 126 miles till you see big huge dead gum tree — the biggest tree you’ve ever seen. Here you gotta leave car, because it’s much too rough for driving. You strike out due west into the setting sun. Walk three days till you hit a creek. You follow this creek to the northwest. After two days you’ll find where the creek flows out of some rocky mountains, but it’s much too difficult to cross the mountains there, though. So you head south for half day until you see a pass through mountains. The pass is very difficult and very dangerous. It’ll take you two, maybe three days to get through it. On the other side, head northwest for four days until you reach a big huge rock — twenty feet high and shaped like a man’s head. From the rock, walk due west for two days, and then you’ll find the village. You’ll be able to see the Butcher Dance there.”
So the guy grabbed his camera crew and equipment and headed out. After a couple of hours, he found the dirt track. The track was in a shocking state, and he was forced to crawl along at a snail’s pace, and so he didn’t reach the tree until dusk, where he was forced to set up camp for the night.
He set out bright and early the following morning. His spirits were high, and he was excited about the prospect of capturing on film this mysterious dance that he had never heard mention of before. True to the directions he had been given, he reached the creek after three days and followed it for another two, until he reached the rocky mountains.
The merciless sun was starting to take its toll, and the spirits of both himself and his crew were starting to flag; but wearily they trudged on, finally finding the pass through the mountains. Nothing would prevent him from completing his life’s dream. The mountains proved to be every bit as treacherous as their guide had said, and at times they despaired of ever getting their bulky equipment through. But after three and a half days of back breaking effort, they finally forced their way clear and continued their long trek.
When they reached the huge rock, four days later, their water was running low, and their feet were covered with blisters, but they steeled themselves and headed out on the last leg of their journey. Two days later they virtually staggered into the village. To their relief, the natives welcomed them and fed them and gave them fresh water, and they began to feel like new men. Once he recovered enough, the guy went before the village chief and told him that he came to film their Butcher Dance.
“Oh mate,” he said. “Very bad you come today. Butcher Dance last night. You too late. You miss dance.”
“Well, when do you hold the next dance?”
“Not till next year.”
“Well, I’ve come all this way. Couldn’t you just hold an extra dance for me tonight?”
“No, no, no!” the chief exclaimed. “Butcher Dance very holy. Only hold once a year. You want see Butcher Dance, you come back next year.”
Understandably, the guy was devastated, but he had no other option but to head back to civilization and back home.
The following year, he headed back to Australia and, determined not to miss out again, set out a week earlier than before. He was quite willing to spend a week in the village before the dance is performed in order to ensure he was present to witness it.
But right from the start, things went wrong. Heavy rains that year turned the dirt track to mud, and the car got bogged down every few miles. Finally they had to abandon their vehicles and slog through the mud on foot almost half the distance to the tree. They reached the creek and the mountains without any further problems, but halfway through the mountain pass, they were struck by a fierce storm that raged for several days, during which they were forced to cling forlornly to the mountainside until it subsided.
Then, before they had traveled a mile out from the mountains, one of the crew sprained his ankle badly, slowing down the rest of their journey greatly. Eventually, having lost all sense of how long they had been traveling, they staggered into the village right at noon.
“The Butcher Dance!” the man gasped. “Please don’t tell me I’m too late to see it!”
The chief recognized him and said, “No, white fella. Butcher Dance performed tonight. You come just in time.”
Relieved beyond measure, the crew spent the rest of the afternoon setting up their equipment and preparing to capture the night’s ritual on celluloid. As dusk fell, the natives started to cover their bodies in white paint and adorn themselves in all manner of birds’ feathers and animal skins. Once darkness had settled fully over the land, the natives formed a circle around a huge roaring fire. A deathly hush descended over performers and spectators alike as a wizened old figure with elaborate swirling designs covering his entire body entered the circle and began to chant.
“What’s he doing?” the man whispered to the chief.
“Hush,” the chief whispered back. “You 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 reached a stunning crescendo before he removed himself from the circle. The rhythmic pounding of drums boomed out across the land, and the natives began to sway to the stirring rhythm. The guy became caught up in the fervor of the moment himself. This was it. He realized beyond all doubt that his wait had not been in vain. He was about to witness the ultimate performance of rhythm and movement ever conceived by mankind.
The chief strode to his position in the circle and, in a big booming voice, started 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….”