1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dance

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DANCE (Fr. danse; of obscure origin, connected with Old High Ger. danson, to stretch). The term “dancing” in its widest sense includes three things:—(1) the spontaneous activity of the muscles under the influence of some strong emotion, such as social joy or religious exultation; (2) definite combinations of graceful movements performed for the sake of the pleasure which the exercise affords to the dancer or to the spectator; (3) carefully trained movements which are meant by the dancer vividly to represent the actions and passions of other people. In the highest sense it seems to be for prose-gesture what song is for the instinctive exclamations of feeling. Regarded as the outlet or expression of strong feeling, dancing does not require much discussion, for the general rule applies that such demonstrations for a time at least sustain and do not exhaust the flow of feeling. The voice and the facial muscles and many of the organs are affected at the same time, and the result is a high state of vitality which among the spinning Dervishes or in the ecstatic worship of Bacchus and Cybele amounted to something like madness. Even here there is traceable an undulatory movement which, as Herbert Spencer says, is “habitually generated by feeling in its bodily discharge.” But it is only in the advanced or volitional stage of dancing that we find developed the essential feature of measure, which has been said to consist in “the alternation of stronger muscular contractions with weaker ones,” an alternation which, except in the cases of savages and children, “is compounded with longer rises and falls in the degree of muscular excitement.” In analysing the state of mind which this measured dancing produces, we must first of all allow for the pleasant glow of excitement caused by the excess of blood sent to the brain. But apart from this, there is an agreeable sense of uniformity in the succession of muscular efforts, and in the spaces described, and also in the period of their recurrence. If the steps of dancing and the intervals of time be not precisely equal, there is still a pleasure depending on the gradually increasing intensity of motion, on the undulation which uniformly rises in order to fall. As Florizel says to Perdita, “When you do dance, I wish you a wave of the sea” (Winter’s Tale, iv. 3). The mind feels the beauty of emphasis and cadence in muscular motion, just as much as in musical notes. Then, the figure of the dance is frequently a circle or some more graceful curve or series of curves,—a fact which satisfies the dancer as well as the eye of the spectator. But all such effects are intensified by the use of music, which not only brings a perfectly distinct set of pleasurable sensations to dancer and spectator, but by the control of dancing produces an inexpressibly sweet harmony of sound and motion. This harmony is further enriched if there be two dancing together on one plan, or a large company of dancers executing certain evolutions, the success of which depends on the separate harmonies of all the couples. The fundamental condition is that throughout the dance all the dancers keep within their bases of gravity. This is not only required for the dancers’ own enjoyment, but, as in the famous Mercury on tiptoe, it is essential to the beautiful effect for the spectator. The idea of much being safely supported by little is what proves attractive in the posturing ballet. But this is merely one condition of graceful dancing, and if it be made the chief object the dancer sinks into the acrobat.

Dancing is, in fact, the universal human expression, by movements of the limbs and body, of a sense of rhythm which is implanted among the primitive instincts of the animal world. The rhythmic principle of motion extends throughout the universe, governing the lapse of waves, the flow of tides, the reverberations of light and sound, and the movements of celestial bodies; and in the human organism it manifests itself in the automatic pulses and flexions of the blood and tissues. Dancing is merely the voluntary application of the rhythmic principle, when excitement has induced an abnormally rapid oxidization of brain tissue, to the physical exertion by which the overcharged brain is relieved. This is primitive dancing; and it embraces all movements of the limbs and body expressive of joy or grief, all pantomimic representations of incidents in the lives of the dancers, all performances in which movements of the body are employed to excite the passions of hatred or love, pity or revenge, or to arouse the warlike instincts, and all ceremonies in which such movements express homage or worship, or are used as religious exercises. Although music is not an essential part of dancing, it almost invariably accompanies it, even in the crudest form of a rhythm beaten out on a drum.

Primitive and Ancient Dancing.—In Tigrè the Abyssinians dance the chassée step in a circle, and keep time by shrugging their shoulders and working their elbows backwards and forwards. At intervals the dancers squat on the ground, still moving the arms and shoulders in the same way. The Bushmen dance in their low-roofed rooms supporting themselves by sticks; one foot remains motionless, the other dances in a wild irregular manner, while the hands are occupied with the sticks. The Gonds, a hill-tribe of Hindustan, dance generally in pairs, with a shuffling step, the eyes on the ground, the arms close to the body, and the elbows at an angle with the closed hand. Advancing to a point, the dancer suddenly erects his head, and wheels round to the starting point. The women of the Pultooah tribe dance in a circle, moving backwards and forwards in a bent posture. The Santal women, again, are slow and graceful in dance; joining hands, they form themselves into the arc of a circle, towards the centre of which they advance and then retire, moving at the same time slightly towards the right, so as to complete the circle in an hour. The Kukis of Assam have only the rudest possible step, an awkward hop with the knees very much bent. The national dance of the Kamchadale is one of the most violent known, every muscle apparently quivering at every movement. But there, and in some other cases where men and women dance together, there is a trace of deliberate obscenity; the dance is, in fact, a rude representation of sexual passion. It has been said that some of the Tasmanian corrobories have a phallic design. The Yucatan dance of naual may also be mentioned. The Andamans hop on one foot and swing the arms violently backwards and forwards. The Veddahs jump with both feet together, patting their bodies, or clapping their hands, and make a point of bringing their long hair down in front of the face. In New Caledonia the dance consists of a series of twistings of the body, the feet being lifted alternately, but without change of place. The Fijians jump half round from side to side with their arms akimbo. The only modulation of the Samoan dance is one of time—a crescendo movement, which is well-known in the modern ball-room. The Javans are perhaps unique in their distinct and graceful gestures of the hands and fingers. At a Mexican feast called Huitzilopochtli, the noblemen and women danced tied together at the hands, and embracing one another, the arms being thrown over the neck. This resembles the dance variously known as the Greek Bracelet or Brawl, Ὅρμος, or Bearsfeet; but all of them[1] probably are to a certain extent symbolical of the relations between the sexes. Actual contact of the partners, however, is quite intelligible as matter of pure dancing; for, apart altogether from the pleasure of the embrace, the harmony of the double rotation adds very much to the enjoyment. In a very old Peruvian dance of ceremony before the Inca, several hundreds of men formed a chain, each taking hold of the hand of the man beyond his immediate neighbour, and the whole body moving forwards and backwards three steps at a time as they approached the throne. In this, as in the national dance of the Coles of Lower Bengal, there was perhaps a suggestion of “l’union fait la force.” In Yucatan stilts were occasionally used for dancing.

It seldom happens that dancing takes place without accompaniment, either by the dancers or by others. This is not merely because the feelings which find relief in dancing express themselves at the same time in other forms; in some cases, indeed, the vocal and instrumental elements largely predominate, and form the ground-work of the whole emotional demonstration. Whether they do so or not will of course depend on the intellectual advancement of the nation or tribe and upon the particular development of their aesthetical sensibility. A striking instance occurs among the Zulus, whose grand dances are merely the accompaniment to the colloquial war and hunting songs, in which the women put questions which are answered by the men. So also in Tahiti there is a set of national ballads and songs, referring to many events in the past and present lives of the people. The fisherman, the woodsman, the canoe-builder, has each his trade song, which on public occasions at least is illustrated by dancing. But the accompaniment is often consciously intended, by an appeal to the ear, to regulate and sustain the excitement of the muscles. And a close relation will be found always to exist between the excellence of a nation’s dancing and the excellence or complexity of its music and poetry. In some cases the performer himself sings or marks time by the clanking of ornaments on his person. In others the accompaniment consists sometimes of a rude chant improvised by those standing round, or of music from instruments, or of mere clapping of the hands, or of striking one stick against another or on the ground, or of “marking time,” in the technical sense. The Tasmanians beat on a rolled-up kangaroo-skin. The Kamchadales make a noise like a continuous hiccough all through the dance. The Andamans use a large hollow dancing-board, on which one man is set apart to stamp. Sometimes it is the privilege of the tribal chief to sing the accompaniment while his people dance. The savages of New Caledonia whistle and strike upon the hip.

The rude imitative dances of early civilization are of extreme interest. In the same way the dances of the Ostyak tribes (Northern Asiatic) imitate the habitual sports of the chase and the gambols of the wolf and the bear and other wild beasts, the dancing consisting mainly of sudden leaps and violent turns which exhaust the muscular powers of the whole body. The Kamchadales, too, in dancing, imitate bears, dogs and birds. The Kru dances of the Coast Negroes represent hunting scenes; and on the Congo, before the hunters start, they go through a dance imitating the habits of the gorilla and its movements when attacked. The Damara dance is a mimic representation of the movements of oxen and sheep, four men stooping with their heads in contact and uttering harsh cries. The canter of the baboon is the humorous part of the ceremony. The Bushmen dance in long irregular jumps, which they compare to the leaping of a herd of calves, and the Hottentots not only go on all-fours to counterfeit the baboon, but they have a dance in which the buzzing of a swarm of bees is represented. The Kennowits in Borneo introduce the mias and the deer for the same purpose. The Australians and Tasmanians in their dances called corrobories imitate the frog and the kangaroo (both leaping animals). The hunt of the emu is also performed, a number of men passing slowly round the fire and throwing their arrows about so as to imitate the movements of the animal’s head while feeding. The Gonds are fond of dancing the bison hunt, one man with skin and horns taking the part of the animal. Closely allied to these are the mimic fights, almost universal among tribes to which war is one of the great interests of life. The Bravery dance of the Dahomans and the Hoolee of the Bhil tribe in the Vindhya Hills are illustrations. The latter seems to have been reduced to an amusement conducted by professionals who go from village to village,—the battle being engaged in by women with long poles on the one side, and men with short cudgels on the other. There is here an element of comedy, which also appears in the Fiji club-dance. This, although no doubt originally suggested by war, is enlivened by the presence of a clown covered with leaves and wearing a mask. The monotonous song accompanying the club-dance is by way of commentary or explanation. So, also, in Guatemala there is a public baile or dance, in which all the performers, wearing the skins and heads of beasts, go through a mock battle, which always ends in the victory of those wearing the deer’s head. At the end the victors trace in the sand with a pole the figure of some animal; and this exhibition is supposed to have some historical reference. But nearly all savage tribes have a regular war-dance, in which they appear in fighting costume, handle their weapons, and go through the movements of challenge, conflict, pursuit or defeat. The women generally supply the stimulus of music. There is one very picturesque dance of the Natal Kaffirs, which probably refers to the departure of the warriors for the battle. The women appeal plaintively to the men, who slowly withdraw, stamping on the ground and darting their short spears or assegais towards the sky. In Madagascar, when the men are absent on war, the women dance for a great part of the day, believing that this inspires their husbands with courage. In this, however, there may be some religious significance. These war-dances are totally distinct from the institution of military drill, which belongs to a later period, when social life has become less impulsive and more reflective.[2] There can be little doubt that some of the characteristic movements of these primitive hunting and war-dances survive in the smooth and ceremonious dances of the present day. But the early mimetic dance was not confined to these two subjects; it embraced the other great events of savage life—the drama of courtship and marriage, the funeral dance, the consecration of labour, the celebration of harvest or vintage;[3] sometimes, too, purely fictitious scenes of dramatic interest, while other dances degenerated into games. For instance, in Yucatan one man danced in a cowering attitude round a circle, while another followed, hurling at him bohordos or canes, which were adroitly caught on a small stick. Again, in Tasmania, the dances of the women describe their “clamber for the opossum, diving for shell-fish, digging for roots, nursing children and quarrelling with husbands.” Another dance, in which a woman by gesture taunts a chieftain with cowardice, gives him an opportunity of coming forward and recounting his courageous deeds in dance. The funeral dance of the Todas (another Indian hill-tribe) consists in walking backwards and forwards, without variation, to a howling tune of “ha! hoo!” The meaning of this is obscure, but it can scarcely be solely an outburst of grief. In Dahomey the blacksmiths, carpenters, hunters, braves and bards, with their various tools and instruments, join in a dramatic dance. We may add here a form of dance which is almost precisely equivalent to the spoken incantation. It is used by the professional devil-dancer of the wild Veddahs for the cure of diseases. An offering of eatables is put on a tripod of sticks, and the dancer, decorated with green leaves, goes into a paroxysm of dancing, in the midst of which he receives the required information. This, however, rather belongs to the subject of religious dances.

It is impossible here to enumerate either the names or the forms of the sacred dances which formed so prominent a part of the worship of antiquity. A mystic philosophy found in them a resemblance to the courses of the stars. This Pythagorean idea was expanded by Sir John Davies, in his epic poem Orchestra, published in 1596. They were probably adapted to many purposes,—to thanksgiving, praise, supplication and humiliation. It is only one striking illustration of this widespread practice, that there was at Rome a very ancient order of priests especially named Salii, who struck their shields and sang assamenta as they danced. The practice reappeared in the early church, special provision being made for dancing in the choir. Scaliger, who astonished Charles V. by his dancing powers, says the bishops were called Praesules, because they led the dance on feast days. According to some of the fathers, the angels are always dancing, and the glorious company of the apostles is really a chorus of dancers. Dancing, however, fell into discredit with the feast of the Agapae. St Augustine says, “Melius est fodere quam saltare”; and the practice was generally prohibited for some time. No church or sect has raged so fiercely against the cardinal sin of dancing as the Albigenses of Languedoc and the Waldenses, who agreed in calling it the devil’s procession. After the middle of the 18th century there were still traces of religious dancing in the cathedrals of Spain, Portugal and Roussillon—especially in the Mozarabic Mass of Toledo. An account of the numerous secular dances, public and private, of Greece and Rome will be found in the classical histories, and in J. Weaver’s Essay towards a History of Dancing, (London, 1712), which, however, must be revised by more recent authorities. The Pyrrhic (derived from the Memphitic) in all its local varieties, the Bacchanalia and the Hymenaea were among the more important. The name of Lycurgus is also associated with the Trichoria. Among the stage dances of the Athenians, which formed interludes to the regular drama, one of the oldest was the Delian dance of the Labyrinth, ascribed to Theseus, and called Γέρανος, from its resemblance to the flight of cranes, and one of the most powerful was the dance of the Eumenides. A further development of the art took place at Rome, under Augustus, when Pylades and Bathyllus brought serious and comic pantomime to great perfection. The subjects chosen were such as the labours of Hercules, and the surprise of Venus and Mars by Vulcan. The state of public feeling on the subject is well shown in Lucian’s amusing dialogue De Saltatione. Before this Rome had only very inferior buffoons, who attended dinner parties, and whose art traditions belonged not to Greece, but to Etruria.[4] Apparently, however, the Romans, though fond of ceremony and of the theatre, were by temperament not great dancers in private. Cicero says: “Nemo fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit.” But the Italic dance of the imperial theatre, supported by music and splendid dresses, supplanted for a time the older dramas. It was the policy of Augustus to cultivate other than political interests for the people; and he passed laws for the protection and privilege of the pantomimists. They were freed from the jus virgarum, and they used their freedom against the peace of the city. Tiberius and Domitian oppressed and banished them; Trajan and Aurelius gave them such titles as decurions and priests of Apollo; but the pantomime stage soon yielded to the general corruption of the empire.

Modern Dancing.—In modern civilized countries dancing has developed as an art and pastime, as an entertainment. Its direct application to arouse emotion or religious feeling tends to be obscured and finally dropped out.

Italy, in the 15th century, saw the renaissance of dancing, and France may be said to have been the nursery of the modern art, though comparatively few modern dances are really French in origin. The national dances of other countries were brought to France, studied systematically, and made perfect there. An English or a Bohemian dance, practised only amongst peasants, would be taken to France, polished and perfected, and would at last find its way back to its own country, no more recognizable than a piece of elegant cloth when it returns from the printer to the place from which as “grey” material it was sent. The fact that the terminology of dancing is almost entirely French is a sufficient indication of the origin of the rules that govern it. The earliest dances that bear any relation to the modern art are probably the danses basses and danses hautes of the 16th century. The danse basse was the dance of the court of Charles IX. and of good society, the steps being very grave and dignified, not to say solemn, and the accompaniment a psalm tune. The danses hautes or baladines had a skipping step, and were practised only by clowns and country people. More lively dances, such as the Gaillarde and Volta, were introduced into France from Italy by Catherine de’ Medici, but even in these the interest was chiefly spectacular. Other dances of the same period were the Branle (afterwards corrupted to Braule, and known in England as the Brawle)—a kind of generic dance which was capable of an almost infinite amount of variety. Thus there were imitative dances—Branles mimés, such as the Branles des Ermites, Branles des flambeaux and the Branles des lavandières. The Branle in its original form had steps like the Allemande. Perhaps the most famous and stately dance of this period was the Pavane (of Spanish origin), which is very fully described in Tabouret’s Orchésographie, the earliest work in which a dance is found minutely described. The Pavane, which was really more a procession than a dance, must have been a very gorgeous and noble sight, and it was perfectly suited to the dress of the period, the stiff brocades of the ladies and the swords and heavily-plumed hats of the gentlemen being displayed in its simple and dignified measures to great advantage. The dancers in the time of Henry III. of France usually sang, while performing the Pavane, a chanson, of which this is one of the verses:

Approche donc, ma belle,
Approche-toi, mon bien;
Ne me sois plus rebelle,
Puisque mon cœur est tien;
Pour mon âme apaiser,
Donne-moi un baiser.”

In the Pavane and Branle, and in nearly all the dances of the 17th and 18th centuries, the practice of kissing formed a not unimportant part, and seems to have added greatly to the popularity of the pastime. Another extremely popular dance was the Saraband, which, however, died out after the 17th century. It was originally a Spanish dance, but enjoyed an enormous success for a time in France. Every dance at that time had its own tune or tunes, which were called by its own name, and of the Saraband the chevalier de Grammont wrote that “it either charmed or annoyed everyone, for all the guitarists of the court began to learn it, and God only knows the universal twanging that followed.” Vauquelin des Yveteaux, in his eightieth year, desired to die to the tune of the Saraband, “so that his soul might pass away sweetly.” After the Pavane came the Courante, a court dance performed on tiptoe with slightly jumping steps and many bows and curtseys. The Courante is one of the most important of the strictly modern dances. The minuet and the waltz were both in some degree derived from it, and it had much in common with the famous Seguidilla of Spain. It was a favourite dance of Louis XIV., who was an adept in the art, and it was regarded in his time as of such importance that a nobleman’s education could hardly have been said to be begun until he had mastered the Courante.

The dance which the French brought to the greatest perfection—which many, indeed, regard as the fine flower of the art—was the Minuet. Its origin, as a rustic dance, is not less antique than that of the other dances from which the modern art has been evolved. It was originally a branle of Poitou, derived from the Courante. It came to Paris in 1650, and was first set to music by Lully. It was at first a gay and lively dance, but on being brought to court it soon lost its sportive character and became grave and dignified. It is mentioned by Beauchamps, the father of dancing-masters, who flourished in Louis XIV.’s reign, and also by Blondy, his pupil; but it was Pécour who really gave the minuet its popularity, and although it was improved and made perfect by Dauberval, Gardel, Marcel and Vestris, it was in Louis XV.’s reign that it saw its golden age. It was then a dance for two in moderate triple time, and was generally followed by the gavotte. Afterwards the minuet was considerably developed, and with the gavotte became chiefly a stage dance and a means of display; but it should be remembered that the minuets which are now danced on the stage are generally highly elaborated with a view to their spectacular effect, and have imported into them steps and figures which do not belong to the minuet at all, but are borrowed from all kinds of other dances. The original court minuet was a grave and simple dance, although it did not retain its simplicity for long. But when it became elaborated it was glorified and moulded into a perfect expression of an age in which deportment was most sedulously cultivated and most brilliantly polished. The “languishing eye and smiling mouth” had their due effect in the minuet; it was a school for chivalry, courtesy and ceremony; the hundred slow graceful movements and curtseys, the pauses which had to be filled by neatly-turned compliments, the beauty and bravery of attire—all were eloquent of graces and outward refinements which we cannot boast now. The fact that the measure of the minuet has become incorporated in the structure of the symphony shows how important was its place in the polite world. The Gavotte, which was often danced as a pendant to the minuet, was also originally a peasant’s dance, a danse des Gavots, and consisted chiefly of kissing and capering. It also became stiff and artificial, and in the later and more prudish half of the 18th century the ladies received bouquets instead of kisses in dancing the gavotte. It rapidly became a stage dance, and it has never been restored to the ballroom. Grétry attempted to revive it, but his arrangement never became popular. Other dances which were naturalized in France were the Écossaise, popular in 1760; the Cotillon, fashionable under Charles X., derived from the peasant branles and danced by ladies in short skirts; the Galop, imported from Germany; the Lancers, invented by Laborde in 1836; the Polka, brought by a dancing-master from Prague in 1840; the Schottische, also Bohemian, first introduced in 1844; the Bourrée, or French clog-dance; the Quadrille, known in the 18th century as the Contre-danse; and the Waltz, which was danced as a volte by Henry III. of France, but only became popular in the beginning of the 19th century. We shall return to the history of some of these later dances in discussing the dances at present in use.

If France has been the nursery and school of the art of dancing, Spain is its true home. There it is part of the national life, the inevitable expression of the gay, contented, irresponsible, sunburnt nature of the people. The form of Spanish dances has hardly changed; some of them are of great antiquity, and may be traced back with hardly a break to the performances in ancient Rome of the famous dancing-girls of Cadiz. The connexion is lost during the period of the Arab invasion, but the art was not neglected, and Jovellanos suggests that it took refuge in the Asturias. At any rate, dances of the 10th and 12th centuries have been preserved uncorrupted. The earliest dances known were the Turdion, the Gibidana, the Pié-de-gibao, and (later) the Madama Orleans, the Alemana and the Pavana. Under Philip IV. theatrical dancing was in high popularity, and ballets were organized with extraordinary magnificence of decoration and costume. They supplanted the national dances, and the Zarabanda and Chacona were practically extinct in the 18th century. It is at this period that the famous modern Spanish dances, the Bolero, Seguidilla and the Fandango, first appear. Of these the Fandango is the most important. It is danced by two people in 6–8 time, beginning slowly and tenderly, the rhythm marked by the click of castanets, the snapping of the fingers and the stamping of feet, and the speed gradually increasing until a whirl of exaltation is reached. A feature of the Fandango and also of the Seguidilla is a sudden pause of the music towards the end of each measure, upon which the dancers stand rigid in the attitudes in which the stopping of the music found them, and only move again when the music is resumed. M. Vuillier, in his History of Dancing, gives the following description of the Fandango:—“Like an electric shock, the notes of the Fandango animate all hearts. Men and women, young and old, acknowledge the power of this air over the ears and soul of every Spaniard. The young men spring to their places, rattling castanets or imitating their sound by snapping their fingers. The girls are remarkable for the willowy languor and lightness of their movements, the voluptuousness of their attitudes—beating the exactest time with tapping heels. Partners tease and entreat and pursue each other by turns. Suddenly the music stops, and each dancer shows his skill by remaining absolutely motionless, bounding again into the full life of the Fandango as the orchestra strikes up. The sound of the guitar, the violin, the rapid tic-tac of heels (taconeos), the crack of fingers and castanets, the supple swaying of the dancers, fill the spectator with ecstasy. The measure whirls along in a rapid triple time. Spangles glitter; the sharp clank of ivory and ebony castanets beats out the cadence of strange, throbbing, deepening notes—assonances unknown to music, but curiously characteristic, effective and intoxicating. Amidst the rustle of silks, smiles gleam over white teeth, dark eyes sparkle and droop and flash up again in flame. All is flutter and glitter, grace and animation—quivering, sonorous, passionate, seductive.”

The Bolero is a comparatively modern dance, having been invented by Sebastian Cerezo, a celebrated dancer of the time of King Charles III. It is remarkable for the free use made in it of the arms, and is said to be derived from the ancient Zarabanda, a violent and licentious dance, which has entirely disappeared, and with which the later Saraband has practically nothing in common. The step of the Bolero is low and gliding but well marked. It is danced by one or more couples. The Seguidilla is hardly less ancient than the Fandango, which it resembles. Every province in Spain has its own Seguidilla, and the dance is accompanied by coplas, or verses, which are sung either to traditional melodies or to the tunes of local composers; indeed, the national music of Spain consists largely of these coplas. Baron Davillier, among several specimens of Seguidillas, gives this one

Mi corazon volando
Se fué á tu pecho;
Le cortaste las alas,
      Y quédo dentro.
      Por atrevido
Se quedará por siempre
      En el metido.”[5]

M. Vuillier quotes a copla which he heard at Polenza, in the Balearic Islands. This verse is formed on the rhythm of the Malagueña:

Una estrella se ha pardida
   En el ciel y no parece;
En tu cara se ha metido;
   Y en tu frente resplandece.”[6]

The Jota is the national dance of Aragon, a lively and splendid, but withal dignified and reticent, dance derived from the 16th-century Passacaille. It is still used as a religious dance. The Cachuca is a light and graceful dance in triple time. It is performed by a single dancer of either sex. The head and shoulders play an important part in the movements of this dance. Other provincial dances now in existence are the Jaleo de Jerez, a whirling measure performed by gipsies, the Palotéa, the Polo, the Gallegada, the Muyneria, the Habas Verdes, the Zapateado, the Zorongo, the Vito, the Tirano and the Tripola Trapola. Most of these dances are named either after the places where they are danced or after the composers who have invented tunes for them. Many of them are but slight variations from the Fandango and Seguidilla.

The history of court dancing in Great Britain is practically the same as that of France, and need not occupy much of our attention here. But there are strictly national dances still in existence which are quite peculiar to the country, and may be traced back to the dances and games of the Saxon gleemen. The Egg dance and the Carole were both Saxon dances, the Carole being a Yule-tide festivity, of which the present-day Christmas carol is a remnant. The oldest dances which remain unchanged in England are the Morris dances, which were introduced in the time of Edward III. The name Morris or Moorish refers to the origin of these dances, which are said to have been brought back by John of Gaunt from his travels in Spain. The Morris dances are associated with May-day, and are danced round a maypole to a lively and capering step, some of the performers having bells fastened to their knees in the Moorish manner. They are dressed as characters of old English tradition, such as Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Little John and Tom the Piper. All the true country dances of Great Britain are of an active and lively measure; they may all, indeed, be said to be founded on the jig; and the hornpipe, which is a kind of jig, is the national dance of England. Captain Cook, on his voyages, made his sailors dance hornpipes in calm weather to keep them in good health. A characteristic of English dances was that they partook to a great extent of the nature of games; there was little variety in the steps, which were nearly all those of the jig or hornpipe, but these were incorporated into various games or plays, of which the Morris dances were the most elaborate. Richard Baxter wrote that “sometimes the Morris dancers would come into the church in all their linen and scarves and antic dresses, with Morris bells jingling at their legs; and as soon as Common Prayer was read, did haste and presently to their play again.” May-day has always been celebrated in England with rustic dances and festivities. Before the Reformation there were no really national dances in use at court; but in the reign of Elizabeth the homely, domestic style of dancing reached the height of its popularity. Remnants of many of these dances remain to-day in the games played by children and country people; “Hunt the Slipper,” “Kiss in the Ring,” “Here we go round the Mulberry Bush,” are examples. All the Tudor dances were kissing dances, and must have been the occasion of a great deal of merriment. Mrs Groves gives the following description of the Cushion dance:—“The dance is begun by a single person, man or woman, who, taking a cushion in hand, dances about the room, and at the end of a short time stops and sings: ‘This dance it will no farther go,’ to which the musician answers: ‘I pray you, good sir, why say so?’ ‘Because Joan Sanderson will not come to.’ ‘She must come to whether she will or no,’ returns the musician, and then the dancer lays the cushion before a woman; she kneels and he kisses her, singing ‘Welcome, Joan Sanderson.’ Then she rises, takes up the cushion, and both dance and sing ‘Prinkum prankum is a fine dance, and shall we go dance it over again?’ Afterwards the woman takes the cushion and does as the man did.” Other popular dances—generally adapted to the tunes of popular songs, the nature of some of which may be guessed from their titles—were the Trenchmore, Omnium-gatherum, Tolly-polly, Hoite cum toite, Dull Sir John, Faine I would, Sillinger, All in a Garden Green, An Old Man’s a Bed Full of Bones, If All the World were Paper, John, Come Kiss Me Now, Cuckholds All Awry, Green Sleeves and Pudding Pies, Lumps of Pudding, Under and Over, Up Tails All, The Slaughter House, Rub her Down with Straw, Have at thy Coat Old Woman, The Happy Marriage, Dissembling Love, Sweet Kate, Once I Loved a Maiden Fair. Dancing practically disappeared during the Puritan régime, but with the Restoration it again became popular. It underwent no considerable developments, however, until the reign of Queen Anne, when the glories of Bath were revived in the beginning of the 18th century, and Beau Nash drew up his famous codes of rules for the regulation of dress and manners, and founded the balls in which the polite French dances completely eclipsed the simpler English ones. An account of a dancing lesson witnessed by a fond parent at this time is worth quoting, as it shows how far the writer (but not his daughter) had departed from the jolly, romping traditions of the old English dances:—“As the best institutions are liable to corruption, so, sir, I must acquaint you that very great abuses are crept into this entertainment. I was amazed to see my girl handed by and handing young fellows with so much familiarity, and I could not have thought it had been my child. They very often made use of a most impudent and lascivious step called setting to partners, which I know not how to describe to you but by telling you that it is the very reverse of back to back. At last an impudent young dog bid the fiddlers play a dance called Moll Patley, and, after having made two or three capers, ran to his partner, locked his arms in hers, and whisked her round cleverly above ground in such a manner that I, who sat upon one of the lowest benches, saw farther above her shoe than I can think fit to acquaint you with. I could no longer endure these enormities, wherefore, just as my girl was going to be made a whirligig, I ran in, seized my child and carried her home.” What we may call polite dancing, when it became fashionable, soon invaded London, its first home being Madame Cornely’s famous Carlisle House in Soho Square. Ranelagh and Vauxhall and Almack’s were all extensively patronized, and the rage for magnificent entertainment and dancing culminated in the erection of the palatial Pantheon in Oxford Street—a place so universally patronized that even Dr Johnson was to be found there. White’s and Boodle’s were also famous assembly rooms, but the most exclusive of all these establishments was Almack’s, the original of Brooks’s Club.

The only true national dances of Scotland are reels, strathspeys and flings, while in Ireland there is but one dance—the jig, which is there, however, found in many varieties and expressive of many shades of emotion, from the maddest gaiety to the wildest lament. Curiously enough, although the Welsh dance often, they have no strictly national dances.

Dancing in present-day society is a comparatively simple affair, as five-sixths of almost all ball programmes consists of waltzes. The origin of the waltz is a much-debated subject, the French, Italians and Bavarians each claiming for their respective countries the honour of having given birth to it. As a matter of fact the waltz, as it is now danced, comes from Germany; but it is equally true that its real origin is French, since it is a development of the Volte, which in its turn came from the Lavolta of Provence, one of the most ancient of French dances. The Lavolta was fashionable in the 16th century and was the delight of the Valois court. The Volte danced by Henry III. was really a Valse à deux pas; and Castil-Blaze says that “the waltz which we took again from the Germans in 1795 had been a French dance for four hundred years.” The change, it is true, came upon it during its visit to Germany, hence the theory of its German origin. The first German waltz tune is dated 1770—“Ach! du lieber Augustin.” It was first danced at the Paris opera in 1793, in Gardel’s ballet La Dansomanie. It was introduced to English ballrooms in 1812, when it roused a storm of ridicule and opposition, but it became popular when danced at Almack’s by the emperor Alexander in 1816. The waltz à trois temps has a sliding step in which the movements of the knees play an important part. The tempo is moderate, so as to allow three distinct movements on the three beats of each bar; and the waltz is written in 3–4 time and in eight-bar sentences. Walking up and down the room and occasionally breaking into the step of the dance is not true waltzing, and the habit of pushing one’s partner backwards along the room is an entirely English one. But the dancer must be able to waltz equally well in all directions, pivoting and crossing the feet when necessary in the reverse turn. It need hardly be said that the feet should never leave the floor in the true waltz. Gungl, Waldteufel and the Strauss family may be said to have moulded the modern waltz to its present form by their rhythmical and agreeable compositions. There are variations which include hopping and lurching steps; these are degradations, and foreign to the spirit of the true waltz.

The Quadrille is of some antiquity, and a dance of this kind was first brought to England from Normandy by William the Conqueror, and was common all over Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term quadrille means a kind of card game, and the dance is supposed to be in some way connected with the game. A species of quadrille appeared in a French ballet in 1745, and since that time the dance has gone by that name. Like many other dances, it came from Paris to Almack’s in 1815, and in its modern form was danced in England for the first time by Lady Jersey, Lady Harriet Butler, Lady Susan Ryder and Miss Montgomery, with Count Aldegarde, Mr Montgomery, Mr Harley and Mr Montague. It immediately became popular. It then consisted of very elaborate steps, which in England have been simplified until the degenerate practice has become common of walking through the dance. The quadrille, properly danced, has many of the graces of the minuet. It is often stated that the square dance is of modern French origin. This is incorrect, and probably arises from a mistaken identification of the terms quadrille and square dance. “Dull Sir John” and “Faine I would” were square dances popular in England three hundred years ago.

An account of the country-dance, with the names of some of the old dance-tunes, has been given above. The word is not, as has been supposed, an adaptation of the French contre-danse, neither is the dance itself French in origin. According to the New English Dictionary, contre-danse is a corruption of “country-dance,” possibly due to a peculiar feature of many of such dances, like Sir Roger de Coverley, where the partners are drawn up in lines opposite to each other. The earliest appearance of the French word is in its application to English dances, which are contrasted with the French; thus in the Memoirs of Grammont, Hamilton says: “On quitta les danses françaises pour se mettre aux contre-danses.” The English “country-dances” were introduced into France in the early part of the 18th century and became popular; later French modifications were brought back to England under the French form of the name, and this, no doubt, caused the long-accepted but confused derivation.

The Lancers were invented by Laborde in Paris in 1836. They were brought over to England in 1850, and were made fashionable by Madame Sacré at her classes in Hanover Square Rooms. The first four ladies to dance the lancers in England were Lady Georgina Lygon, Lady Jane Fielding, Mdlle. Olga de Lechner and Miss Berkeley.

The Polka, the chief of the Bohemian national dances, was adopted by Society in 1835 at Prague. Josef Neruda had seen a peasant girl dancing and singing the polka, and had noted down the tune and the steps. From Prague it readily spread to Vienna, and was introduced to Paris by Cellarius, a dancing-master, who gave it at the Odéon in 1840. It took the public by storm, and spread like an infection through England and America. Everything was named after the polka, from public-houses to articles of dress. Mr Punch exerted his wit on the subject weekly, and even The Times complained that its French correspondence was interrupted, since the polka had taken the place of politics in Paris. The true polka has three slightly jumping steps, danced on the first three beats of a four-quaver bar, the last beat of which is employed as a rest while the toe of the unemployed foot is drawn up against the heel of the other.

The Galop is strictly speaking a Hungarian dance, which became popular in Paris in 1830. But some kind of a dance corresponding to the galop was always indulged in after Voltes and Contre-danses, as a relief from their grave and constrained measures.

The Washington Post and several varieties of Barn-dance are of American origin, and became fashionable towards the end of the 19th century.

The Polka-Mazurka is extremely popular in Vienna and Budapest, and is a favourite theme with Hungarian composers. The six movements of this dance occupy two bars of 3-4 time, and consist of a mazurka step joined to the polka. It is of Polish origin.

The Polonaise and Mazurka are both Polish dances, and are still fashionable in Russia and Poland. Every State ball in Russia is opened with the ceremonious Polonaise.

The Schottische, a kind of modified polka, was “created” by Markowski, who was the proprietor of a famous dancing academy in 1850. The Highland Schottische is a fling. The Fling and Reel are Celtic dances, and form the national dances of Scotland and Denmark. They are complicated measures of a studied and classical order, in which free use is made of the arms and of cries and stampings. The Strathspey is a slow and grandiose modification of the Reel.

Sir Roger de Coverley is the only one of the old English social dances which has survived to the present day, and it is frequently danced at the conclusion of the less formal sort of balls. It is a merry and lively game in which all the company take part, men and women facing each other in two long rows. The dancers are constantly changing places in such a way that if the dance is carried to its conclusion everyone will have danced with everyone else. The music was first printed in 1685, and is sometimes written in 2-4 time, sometimes in 6-8 time, and sometimes in 3–9 time.

The Cotillon is a modern development of the French dance of the same name referred to above. It is an extremely elaborate dance, in which a great many toys and accessories are employed; hundreds of figures may be contrived for it, in which presents, toys, lighted tapers, biscuits, air-balloons and hurdles are used.

Ballet, &c.—The modern ballet (q.v.) seems to have been first produced on a considerable scale in 1489 at Tortona, before Duke Galeazzo of Milan. It soon became a common amusement on great occasions at the European courts. The ordinary length was five acts, each containing several entrées, and each entrée containing several quadrilles. The accessories of painting, sculpture and movable scenery were employed, and the representation often took place at night. The allegorical, moral and ludicrous ballets were introduced to France by Baïf in the time of Catherine de’ Medici. The complex nature of these exhibitions may be gathered from the title of one played at Turin in 1634—La verità nemica della apparenza, sollevata dal tempo. Of the ludicrous, one of the best known was the Venetian ballet of I a veritá raminga. Now and then, however, a high political aim may be discovered, as in the “Prosperity of the Arms of France,” danced before Richelieu in 1641, or “Religion uniting Great Britain to the rest of the World,” danced at London on the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to the elector Frederick. Outside the theatre, the Portuguese revived an ambulatory ballet which was played on the canonization of Carlo Borromeo, and to which they gave the name of the Tyrrhenic Pomp. During this time also the ceremonial ball (with all its elaborate detail of courante, minuet and saraband) was cultivated. The fathers of the church assembled at Trent gave a ball in which they took a part. Masked balls, too, resembling in some respects the Roman Saturnalia, became common towards the end of the 17th century. In France a ball was sometimes diversified by a masquerade, carried on by a limited number of persons in character-costume. Two of the most famous were named “au Sauvage” and “des Sorciers.” In 1715 the regent of France started a system of public balls in the opera-house, which did not succeed. Dancing, also, formed a leading element in the Opéra Français introduced by Quinault. His subjects were chiefly marvellous, drawn from the classical mythologies; and the choral dancing was not merely divertissement, but was intended to assist and enrich the dramatic action of the whole piece.

Musical Gymnastics.—Dancing is an important branch of physical education. Long ago Locke pointed out (Education, §§ 67, 196) that the effects of dancing are not confined to the body; it gives to children, he says, not mere outward gracefulness of motion, but manly thoughts and a becoming confidence. Only lately, however, has the advantage been recognized of making gymnastics attractive by connecting it with what Homer calls “the sweetest and most perfect of human enjoyments.” The practical principle against heavy weights and intense monotonous exertion of particular muscles was thus stated by Samuel Smiles (Physical Education, p. 148):—“The greatest benefit is derived from that exercise which calls into action the greatest number of muscles, and in which the action of these is intermitted at the shortest intervals.” It required only one further step to see how, if light and changing movements were desirable, music would prove a powerful stimulus to gymnastics. It touches the play-impulse, and substitutes a spontaneous flow of energy for the mechanical effort of the will. The force of imitation or contagion, one of the most valuable forces in education, is also much increased by the state of exhilaration into which dancing puts the system. This idea was embodied by Froebel in his Kindergarten plan, and was developed by Jahn and Schreber in Germany, by Dio Lewis in the United States, and by Ling (the author of the Swedish Cure Movement) in Sweden.

Authorities.—For the old division of the Ars Gymnastica into palaestrica and saltatoria, and of the latter into cubistica, sphaeristica and orchestica, see the learned work of Hieronymus Mercurialis, De arte Gymnastica (Amsterdam, 1572). Cubistic was the art of throwing somersaults, and is described minutely by Tuccaro in his Trois Dialogues (Paris, 1599). Sphaeristic included several complex games at ball and tilting—the Greek κώρυκος, and the Roman trigonalis and paganica. Orchestic, divided by Plutarch into latio, figura and indicatio, was really imitative dancing, the “silent poetry” of Simonides. The importance of the χειρονομία or hand-movement is indicated by Ovid:—“Si vox est, canta; si mollia brachia, salta.” For further information as to modern dancing, see Rameau’s Le maître à danser (1726); Querlon’s Le triomphe des grâces (1774); Cahousac, La danse ancienne et moderne (1754); Vuillier, History of Dancing (Eng. trans., 1897); Giraudet, Traité de la danse (1900).  (W. C. S.; A. B. F. Y.) 

  1. Compare the Chica of South America, the Fandango of Spain, and the Angrismene or la Fachée of modern Greece. See also Romaunt de la rose, v. 776.
  2. The Greek καρπαία represented the surprise by robbers of a warrior ploughing a field. The gymnopaedic dances imitated the sterner sports of the palaestra.
  3. The Greek Lenaea and Dionysia had a distinct reference to the seasons.
  4. The Pantomimus was an outgrowth from the canticum or choral singing of the older comedies and fabulae Atellanae.
  5. “My heart flew to thy breast. Thou didst cut its wings, so that it remained there. And now it has waxed daring, and will stay with thee for evermore.”
  6. “A star is lost and appears not in the sky; in thy face it has set itself; on thy brow it shines.”