dancing with the vermin
i was reading a questionable novel on the nordic track last night that made reference to a species of animal known as the “japanese waltzing mouse.” i was so captivated with the idea of a mouse that knows not just how to dance, but how to dance in 3/4 time that i abandoned the nordic track machine without fully wiping it down and bum rushed my local library to find out more.
it turns out, the only references to this magical dancing species of mouse occur between 1900 - 1915. in the hysterically-titled science gossip (1900) we learn that professor gotch (professor gotch?!?!) believes that waltzing mice are probably not a separate species and their capacity to dance is most likely a genetic defect of the brain. so that settles that, but what i really want to know is: what styles of waltz do these mice know? viennese? cross-step? venezuelan? is their dance card limited to waltzes or could they possibly polka or—and this is a big or—could they lambada the night away like i did in rio back in 1994?
to find out, i dug up an old pet manual from 1914 and discovered the following:
These brown and white, piebald dancers are a source of amusement to all who watch them. Anatomists and physiologists have written long treatises upon why this mouse dances like a spinning top. But it does not matter much to us whether the dancing is caused by imperfect equilibrium through some defect of the ear or brain, or from some other cause, so long as our pets keep active and entertaining.
Mrs. Cyrus R. Crosby has given to me the notes which she made upon the habits and care of her pair of pet waltzers. Although they are nocturnal in their habits, and begin their regular dancing after four o’clock in the afternoon, yet she found that sometimes they came out in the morning or at noon and danced for a time. Once she tried to count how many times one of them whirled without stopping; the approximate number was two-hundred and seventy-four.
there is also a really awful poem written about the japanese waltzing mice. i shall include it only so that it can help you appreciate what a good poem about a japanese waltzing mouse could be:
Little four-foot dervishes are they
As they whirl and twirl—
It is not work and it is not play—
‘Tis as if they just were built that way
To twirl and whirl.
They go so fast they make a blur
As they whirl and twirl,
Their very long tails and spotted fur
Look like a wheel on a pivot awhirr
As they twirl and whirl.