"Danse Macabre ('Dance of Death') is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and laborer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest recorded visual scheme was a now lost mural in the Holy Innocents Cemetery in Paris dating from 1424–25." (Wikipedia)
One of the things I enjoy most about Renaissance Faires is the performing group, Northern California Danse Macabre. They are very sneaky about their "entrances" and "exits", and don't wander about the faires in their Danse Macabre costumes. Instead, they wear regular faire garb like everyone else most of the day, but before each of their performances, they slip one by one into one or more of the many encampments and hide in or behind the tent while they change into their DM costumes and makeup. Then they suddenly appear, seemingly out of nowhere, do their parade/dance through the faire without speaking to anyone (performances consist of period music on period instruments, no vocals), and then disappear into another tent or tents to change back into "normal" faire garb. Those who wish to join the group must find them in their hideout at one of the faires they attend in order to apply. I REALLY wanted to join them, but unfortunately we had to stop attending faires before I was able to do so. Below is a photo of them at one of the faires a few years ago, and here is a brief glimpse of their dancing and music (I found both on their website, linked above).
Here is a wonderful picture of the Danse Macabre that I found in an e-mail sent by the group awhile back. Unfortunately, no information was given on when, where or by whom it was created, so I have no idea if it is a medieval original or a well-done modern recreation. (UPDATE: Thanks to Little Gothic Horrors, here is a link!) Underneath is a poem found on the group's "business cards" (also on their website). Enjoy!