Home Diary Dances Gallery Articles Links Members

From Bassedanses to Lavoltas and Punk's Delights

Have you ever wondered what dancing was like before Playford? Or even what the Playford dances were like when the first edition of the "Dancing Master" came out in 1650? Dancing is as old as any other form of communication, such as speech or music. In fact the word itself is thought to go back to early Latin, but its etymology is uncertain. Other words from classical times are orchestra, the place in an amphitheatre set aside for dancing, and carol, a conga-like chain dance done on festive occasions. Terpsichore is the Greek muse of the dance, and hence "terpsichorean", an adjective so beloved of music hall chairmen. Other words indicate the close relationship of musical instruments and dance, such as hornpipe (still a folk instrument in Wales) and jig, which comes from the same root as geig, German for violin or fiddle, both terms originating from fidula. This, along with a whole family of words including viol and its derivatives, surprisingly, come from the Latin vitulus, a calf. Italy is thought to be the land of calf pasture, but it has also been suggested that it is the land characterised by a lively calf-like dance. This would not be the only link of dance music and the energy of young animals; to caper is to leap like a kid, from the Latin capra, a goat. In the dance manual "Orchesographie" (1589), Arbeau uses capriole to mean an impressive jump, and the name of his pupil is Capriol, which is also the name of the orchestral suite based on his tunes by Warlock. What about foxtrot? No luck here, as this was the invention of a Mr Fox! But foxes do trot so nicely, don't they?

Dance falls into two main types according to purpose, according to whether it is intended to be watched by others, or done for enjoyment by everybody. Both had, and still have, a social function, the first being an occasion to display deference to high-ranking persons, and for ceremonial performance by trained dancers. In the second category, the dances are a means for social mixing, enjoyment and celebration, such as dancing in the streets on VE day and in the recent jubilee celebrations. There has always been an etiquette for dances. These "rules" are given in old dance books, including the aforementioned "Orchesographie", in which Capriol is charged to blow his nose only in the correct manner. Such instructions involve a degree of restraint as well as of licence, in manners towards the opposite sex; see "Pride and Prejudice" and other novels of that time. It is hoped that these conventions will be observed when your own Early Dance Group meets in September!

HERTFORDSHIRE EARLY DANCE is building on its success, and will be running a regular monthly dance meetings on Sunday afternoons. Anne Daye will continue to be one of our teachers but there will be others. Most of the time will be spent on dances done in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. There was a lot of cross-frontier interaction at this time, and this will be reflected in the dances we shall be doing. After all we still use the terms dos-i-dos and allemande etc. Also there is a chance to HOP ONTO THE BAND-WAGGON! It is not just for dancers; instrumentalists who would like to try (or do more) playing for dance are welcome to augment the band. So much music has been written for, or inspired by, dancing, and allows us to experience playing in the context of actual dances with correct style and tempi. Most of the tunes are in consort settings, and suit a wide range of instruments such as viols and recorders. Oh, I nearly forgot: "Bassesdanses" and "Lavoltas" will be explained when you come. "Punk's Delight" is a Playford dance.

G.L-J.