Dance with History
"Go back ten thousand years and you will find humans toiling
away at the many mundane activities required for survival:
hunting, food gathering, making weapons and garments,
beginning to experiment with agriculture. But if you land on
the right moonlit night or seasonal turning point, you might
also find them engaged in what seems, by comparison, to be a
gratuitous waste of energy: dancing in lines or circles...well before
people had a written language, and possibly before they took
up a settled lifestyle, they danced and understood dancing
as an activity important enough to record in stone."
recommended dance to his students ... and danced among his
friends after dinner" (470-399 BC)
"Plato saw dance as
a desirable method "for the acquisition of noble, harmonious
and graceful attitudes"" (427-347 BC)
"Dance is as old as love"
Lucian of Samosata (120-180 AD)
1285 Make Merry
From accounts of the Tournaments
at Chauvenci, attended by English Knights:
eating, they rose to their feet and removed the
tables and trestles. They played flutes, tabors and
flageolets and generally made as merry as could be.
Then a song began. Everyone came forward eagerly to
sing 'Cursed be he who does not join the dance'. If
you had seen the ladies come forward, holding the
gentlemen by the hand, you would have thought it a
fine and pleasing sight. There is none who does not
en piez leverent.
Tument tables, tument tretel.
Trompent flaiot, tabors, fretel
Eslorent bien en lor saison
Lors comanca une chanson
De chanter chaseuns cuers s'avance
'Mal dehait ait qui ne vient en la dance'
Qui dont veist dames venir,
Bachelers par les mains tenir,
Bel li samblast et bel li fust
Sans contrebit et sans refust
N'i a celui qui ne s'esjoie."
1400s La Danse Champétre
From the manuscript Heures de Charles O'Angouleme
1514 Dancing Peasants
by Albrecht Dürer
1566 The Wedding
Dance by Pieter Brueghel the Elder
"Dancing is an art adapted by the youthful, agreeable to the
aged and very suitable for all"
Arbeau, T. Orchésographie
1588 (Translated Beaumont, C. W. 1925)
1603 Elizabeth I
herself was... an eager
dancer who still performed the vigorous galliard at
the age of seventy."
Woodcut taken from an oil painting hanging in Penshurst
Palace depicting the Earl of Leicester dancing La Volta with Queen
1651 The English
"[Dance] This Art, Anciently commended as Excellent for
Recreation, after more serious Studies, making the body
active and strong, graceful in deportment, and a quality
very much beseeming a Gentleman"
1657 Oliver Cromwell dances till dawn
"During the Commonwealth (1649-1660) ... private dancing was
consider an acceptable activity, as illustrated by the fact
that the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell himself danced till
dawn at a ball to celebrate his daughter's wedding."
"The wedding feast [for Cromwell's daughter] scaled new
heights of magnificence, not only were there forty-eight
violins and fifty trumpets, but also "mixt dancing" until
five o'clock in the morning"
"Cromwell - our chief of men" (1973)
1774 The Pleasure of Dancing
"If this passion for dancing is a fault, I will gladly
confess I know of nothing I value more. And if there is
something on my mind, I pound out a quadrille and everything
immediately is all right again."
Johann Wolfgang von
Goethe "The Suffering of Young Werther"
1812 "Waltz first danced in England"
1813 Jane Austen's Pride
[Sir William Lucas] "What a charming amusement for young
people this is, Mr Darcy! - There is nothing like dancing
after all. - I consider it as one of the first refinements
of polished societies."
[Mr. Darcy] "Certainly, Sir; - and it has the advantage also
of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the
world. - Every savage can
1816 A Companion to
by Thomas Wilson
"Changing partners in all Balls and Assemblies ought to be
optional, as in many companies it is more properly
1890s "Rumba arose in Havana"
"The Waltz is the favourite dance of modern times and has
held its own for the last fifty years. Good Waltzing means good
dancing, and you cannot be said to dance unless you
"Modern Etiquette in
Public and Private" by Frederick Warne and Co.
1896 Empress Ballroom, Blackpool
"The biggest dance halls were in Lancashire... The Empress
Ballroom flourished throughout the summer, holding some
three thousand dancers."
1898 Arthur Morris of Leeds
"Arthur Morris of Leeds wrote the tune for and arranged the
probably the most popular sequence dance of all time."
1899 Blackpool Tower Ballroom opens
1900s A New Era
Franks describes a progression from
courtly steps as a democratic and fun-seeking society
expresses the emotions of a new era by interpreting music in smooth
flowing dances based on the natural walk.
1900 James Finnigan of Manchester
"James Finnigan devises the Military Two Step. He is also the first
President of the Manchester and Salford Association of
Teachers of Dancing, founded in 1903, and his grand-daughter
still teaches dancing.
1911 Jazz, Syncopation and Ragtime
Irving Berlin composes Alexander's
"... it became fashionable in Paris, and later in London, to
have 'Tango parties'
in drawing-rooms. They also began introducing dancing
couples into restaurants, and [George Grossmith] was one of
the first among the ordinary people watching to get up with
a lady and dance between
the tables. Other spectators followed suit."
1914 Vernon and Irene Castle
"People can say
what they like about rag-time. The Waltz is beautiful, the
Tango is graceful. One can sit quietly and listen with
pleasure to them all; but when a good orchestra plays a rag one has simply got to move."
Castle, Vernon and
Irene "Modern Dancing"
"1914 - The Foxtrot first danced in UK, described by a
contemporary as 'very rollicking, and has a tendency to put everyone in a
"When war came, the most popular form of relaxation for the
men on leave was a dance... The fascinating lilt of the Foxtrot tunes and
the informal nature of the steps appealed so much that in a
few months the Foxtrot swept all other dances except the Rag
off the ballroom floor.
"Foxtrot has an eponymous hero, Harry Fox, who was among the
first to introduce it to the vaudeville stage, but the
suggestion it was named after the gait or pace of the horse,
known in the West as 'Foxtrot', is more plausible.
"...one prominent teacher, in reply to a request for a
definition of the basic Foxtrot steps, wrote at the time:
'There are but two things to remember; first a slow walk,
two counts to a step; second a trot or a run, one count to
1920 English Style "Modern" Ballroom
Formalisation of steps at conferences called by Dancing
Times, formerly Ballroom Dancing Times, and now Dance Today.
Dance Halls in Manchester
"Dance Halls and Dancing Schools [in 1920s Manchester]
"In the first half of [the 20th] century dancers throughout
the Manchester area were well provided for, with splendid
ballrooms and dance halls, and many excellent dancing
schools, where dancing could be enjoyed six nights a week.
"The Ritz on
Whitworth Street West was the best known. It was mainly
frequented by first class dancers who were assured of
finding good partners, or they could engage one of the
professional partners at sixpence a dance. Most people
learnt the basic steps at their local dance hall before
becoming confident enough to set foot in the Ritz.
"Other than Finnigan's [est. 1877], Cadman's
[est. 1903] on Ashfield Road, Sale, is the oldest surviving
"Dancing in Jinks's
1920s Lindy Hop, Boogie Woogie and Swing Jazz
In the Savoy Ballroom, Harlem NY, "Shorty" George names a
street jazz dance as the "Lindy Hop" in honour of Charles
October 1926 Manchester Civic Dance Parties
Dinner and Tea
Dances, Fancy Dress, Shows, Cabaret, Carnival and Gala.
1929 First Quickstep
"The dance called 'Quick-Time
Foxtrot and Charleston' became known as the 'Quickstep'."
1930s Ballroom and Latin American
"The recent period of Ballroom Dancing history starts with
the four standard dances: Waltz,
Foxtrot, Quickstep and Tango."
"On the Latin American side, that delightfully light-hearted
dance, the Samba,
arrived in Europe from Brazil."
"In 1931 bandleader Don Azpiazu rearranged El Manicero (The Peanut
Vendor) and turned the Cuban 'son' music into a Rhumba to
suit Western tastes."
(NB Steward denotes Rhumba spelt
with an 'h' as a westernised version of Cuban Rumba.)
1934 Fred and Ginger
musical film The Gay
Divorcee with Astaire and Rogers performing Night and Day.
1934 Cab Calloway records Jitterbug
Orestes Lopez composes a song called Mambo in Cuba.
1945 British Jive Championships
"... includes a challenge match between world jitterbug champions and
1953 Cha Cha Cha
"Music is never static and by 1953 a further 'new' rhythm
and dance swept Cuba. Enrique Jorrín recorded his
tune 'La Engañadora' using a rhythmic pattern we now
call Cha Cha Cha."
1954 Rock 'n' Roll
Bill Haley and His Comets record Rock Around the Clock.
1960 Chubby Checker records The Twist
"Easy to learn, fun to dance with its distinctive beat,
young and old twisted the night away. The Twist brought with
it a new idea: dancers did not need partners."
1966 Salsa as
Cuban dance music
"The first self-conscious use of 'salsa' to describe
modernized Cuban dance music came in 1966 by Venezuelan
radio DJ, Danilo Phidiad Escalona."
1977 Disco Hustle
dance by John Travolta in Saturday
1980s Rave parties at Manchester's Haçienda
1990s French Jive or Modern Jive
Erroneous titles for accessible Jive-Salsa fusion,
"featuring many spinning actions for lady and imprecise foot
1997 "Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your
Advice, like youth,
probably just wasted on the young from Chicago
Tribune, 1st June. Quoted in Baz Luhrmann's song, Everybody's Free (To Wear
Buena Vista Social Club released by Ry Cooder and the Afro
Cuban Allstars leads to an explosion across Europe of Son
Music and Salsa Dancing.
Bandleader, Wille Colón, writes, "Salsa's magic has always
been transmitted from skin to skin - in a seductive dance
clinch, and through a sheet of dried goats skin - the voice
of the drum"
Why do we dance?
"Dance is an instinctive mode of muscular reaction...
expressing feelings or emotions, or simply expressing excess energy."
"The desire to dance is one of the primitive instincts of
mankind. It has been said that 'dancing is older than anything except eating,
drinking and love'.
"It is a fact that emotion stimulates the body into
movement. Even primitive cave-drawings depict men dancing.
The desire to move in response to emotion is a physiological
fact which will survive as long as people exist. The
persistence of rhythm and its intimate association with sex
and life itself is undeniable, and rhythm and movement come
together in dancing"
Humanity includes dancing,
and today we dance for
Dance with History web links:
American Ballroom Companion: Dance Instruction Manuals
1490-1920 from the US Library of Congress.
of Dancing from centralhome.com.
of western social dance from earthlydelights.com.au.
"Dancing in the Streets"
Ehrenreich, Barbara (2007) Granta, London; ISBN
"The Dance of Life"
Ellis, Havelock (1923) Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
"Social Dance: A
short History" Franks, Arthur Henry (1963) Routledge and
Kegan Paul, London.
"Dance Band Days
around Manchester" Pritchard, Frank (1988) Publisher: Neil
Richardson, Manchester; ISBN 1-85216-023-3.
"Dance in Society:
An analysis of the relationship between the social dance and
society, in England, from the middle ages to the present
day" Rust, Frances (1969) Routledge and Keagan Paul, London.
"Modern Ballroom Dancing"
Silvester, Victor (2005) Ebury Publishing; ISBN 0-0919-05095
(first published in 1977 by Barrie and Jenkins).
heartbeat of Latin America" Steward, Sue (1999) Thames and
Thompson (Highly Recommended by
"Dancing Through Time:
Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918: Selections /
compiled by Allison Thompson" Thompson, Allison (1998)
McFarland and Company; ISBN 0-7864-0480-9.
"The Story of British
Popular Dance" Wainwright, Lyndon (1996) Publisher:
International Dance Publications, Brighton; ISBN
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