Dancing on Nothing
Todd A. Comer

“Dancing on nothing”: that’s what they used to call it in 18th-century
London. But it wasn’t quite the tango and melody had
nothing to do with it.

The mob, creative in extremity, had many names for this dance.

Thousands would crowd the streets to see the masked man and his
dance partner “cry cockles,” “take a leap in the dark,” or “go off
at the fall of a leaf.”

The mob even referred to it as “the deadly nevergreen that bears the fruit
all the year round.” The list seems endless. But its length tells us much about
the fruit of this deadly nevergreen.

And our difficulty dancing to its tune.

On view at Tyburn, the condemned, the noose, the sudden drop, the
jerk of legs and a wet bulging tongue; and a thousand anxious groundlings hoping
for a Tyburn Blossom, the erect head of the unrepentant.

* * *

Dance is silent. Dance is movement in tune to the world, loud
and bright and dangerous as the world may be. But here in this
nevergreen dance we have words, endlessly green words, putting
nothing far from the heart of our being.