Dancing with the Dead
A journey through Madagascar
Written and presented by Helena Drysdale
In 1991 Dancing with the Dead was made into a documentary,
produced by Warner Sisters for Granada TV's "Compass"
series, and Thirteen/WNET's "Travels" series.
'A marvellous voyage of discovery to Madagascar, presented
by the great-great-great niece, Helena Drysdale, of a Brit,
Robert Newman. He tried, in 1837, to open this huge island
off East Africa for trading. Helena, rounding up the ancient
connections she has found in Newman's diaries, witnesses
(among much else) a festival called the Famadihana. Here,
with much tootling of flutes, dancing and singing, families
dig up their dead relatives, dance with them, then rebury
them in new, handwoven shrouds.'
Daily Mail Pick of the Day, 27 March 1991
'Helena Drysdale retraces her great-great-great-uncle's
explorations in Madagascar. Invited to a famadihana
(a "dance with the dead"), she celebrates
with 400 villagers as 19 of their ancestors are exhumed.
Caught up in the frenzy of emotions, Drysdale dances
with the villagers among the remains of their dead,
in celebration of their lives on earth. The ancestors'
remains are rewrapped in a new shroud, and the old ones
are given to childless couples on which to make love,
as they are believed to increase fertility.'
Production Manager: Cate Stemp
Researcher: Martha Wailes
Executive Producer: Rod Caird
Director: Patrick Lau
Independent on Sunday Pick of the Week, 24 March 1991
Producer: Jane Wellesley
Music: Richard Harvey
Photography: Chris O'Dell
Sound: Rupert Murray
Editor: Mel Morpeth