This drawing represents two men, equipped in martial habits, and each of them armed with a sword and a shield, engaged in a combat; the performance is enlivened by the sound of a horn; the musician acts in a double capacity, and is, together with a female assistant, dancing round them to the cadence of the music; and probably the actions of the combatants were also regulated by the same measure.
Materials for Dancing, specifies masques, castanets, and a ladder of ten rounds. I apprehend the ladder-dance originated from the ancient pastime of walking or dancing upon very high stilts. A specimen of such an exhibition is here given from a MS. roll in the Royal Library, written and illuminated in the reign of Henry III. The actor is exercising a double function, that is, of a musician, and of a dancer.
Here we perceive a girl dancing upon the shoulders of the joculator, who at the same time is playing upon the bagpipes, and appears to be in the action of walking forwards.
Dancing, in former times, was closely connected with those feats of activity now called vaulting and tumbling; and such exertions often formed part of the dances that were publicly exhibited by the gleemen and the minstrels; for which reason, the Anglo-Saxon writers frequently used the terms of leaping and tumbling for dancing. Both the phrases occur in the Saxon versions of St. Mark's Gospel; where it is said of the daughter of Herodias, that she vaulted or tumbled, instead of danced, before king Herod
Here, we find a young man dancing singly to the music of two flutes and a lyre; and the action attempted to be expressed by the artist is rather that of ease and elegancy of motion, than of leaping, or contorting of the body in a violent manner.
This dance is executed by a female; and probably the perfection of the dance consisted in approaching and receding from the bear with great agility, so as to prevent his seizing upon her, and occasioning any interruption to the performance, which the animal, on the other hand, appears to be exceedingly desirous of effecting, being unmuzzled for the purpose, and irritated by the scourge of the juggler.
Here we see a youth playing upon a harp with only four strings, and apparently singing at the same time, while an elderly man is performing the part of a buffoon or posture master, holding up one of his legs, and hopping upon the other to the music.
One part of the gleeman's profession, as early as the tenth century, was, teaching animals to dance, to tumble, and to put themselves into variety of attitudes, at the command of their masters.
This engraving is the copy of a curious though rude delineation, being little more than an outline, which exhibits a specimen of this pastime. The principal joculator appears in the front, holding a knotted switch in one hand, and a line attached to a bear in the other; the animal is lying down in obedience to his command; and behind them are two more figures, the one playing upon two flutes or flageolets, and elevating his left leg while he stands upon his right, supported by a staff that passes under his armpit; the other dancing, in an attitude exceedingly ludicrous. This performance takes place upon an eminence resembling a stage made with earth; and in the original a vast concourse are standing round it in a semicircle as spectators of the sport, but they are so exceedingly ill drawn, and withal so indistinct, that I did not think it worth the pains to copy them. The dancing, if I may so call it, of the flute player, is repeated twice in the same manuscript.
This engraving represents two persons dancing to the music of the horn and the trumpet, and it does not appear to be a common dance in which they are engaged; on the contrary, their attitudes are such as must have rendered it very difficult to perform
A Horse dancing to the Pipe and Tabor
The fool's dance, or a dance performed by persons equipped in the dresses appropriated to the fools, is very ancient, and originally, I apprehend, formed a part of the pageant belonging to the festival of fools. This festival was a religious mummery, usually held at Christmas time; and consisted of various ceremonials and mockeries, not only exceedingly ridiculous, but shameful and impious. A vestige of the fool's dance, preserved in a MS. in the Bodleian Library, written and illuminated in the reign of king Edward III. and completed in 1344, is copied below.
This representation of a girl turning over upon her hands, is from a MS. in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
It is not by any means my intention to insinuate, from what has been said, that there were no dances performed by the Saxon gleemen and their assistants, but such as consisted of vaulting and tumbling: on the contrary, I trust it may be proved, that their dances were varied and accommodated to the taste of those for whom the performance was appropriated; being calculated, as occasion required, to excite the admiration and procure the applause of the wealthy or the vulgar.
The Hindus love amusements. They are fond of music and have many curious instruments. Dancing girls dance for the amusement of guests at feasts given in the homes of the wealthy. They usually take their own musicians with them; one of these plays upon a little drum, the other on a kind of guitar. Street exhibitions are frequent.
Grown up men and women did not dance together, but the youth of both sexes joined in the Hormŏs or chain dance and the Gěrănŏs, or crane. The Gěrănŏs, originally from Delos, is said to have been originated by Theseus in memory of his escape from the labyrinth of Crete It was a hand-in-hand dance alternately of males and females. The dance was led by the representative of Theseus playing the lyre.
Panathenaeac dance, about the 4th century B.C.
Dancing Bacchante. From a vase in the British Museum.
According to some authorities, one of the most primitive of the first class, attributed to Phrygian origin, was the Aloenes, danced to the Phrygian flute by the priests of Cybele in honour of her daughter Ceres. The dances ultimately celebrated in her cult were numerous: such as the Anthema, the Bookolos, the Epicredros, and many others, some rustic for labourers, others of shepherds, etc. Every locality seems to have had a dance of its own. Dances in honour of Venus were common, she was the patroness of proper and decent dancing; on the contrary, those in honour of Dionysius or Bacchus degenerated into revelry and obscenity.
Phoenician patera, from Idalium, showing a religious ritual dance before a goddess in a temple around a sun emblem.
From the Phoenicians we have illustrated examples, but no record, whereas from their neighbours the Hebrews we have ample records in the Scriptures, but no illustrations.
A favourite figure dance was universally adopted throughout the country, in which two partners, who were usually men, advanced toward each other, or stood face to face upon one leg, and having performed a series of movements, retired again in opposite directions, continuing to hold by one hand and concluding by turning each other round.
Amongst the earliest representations that are comprehensible, we have certain Egyptian paintings and some of these exhibit postures that evidently had even then a settled meaning, and were a phrase in the sentences of the art. Not only were they settled at such an early period (B.C. 3000) but they appear to have been accepted and handed down to succeeding generations, and what is remarkable in some countries, even to our own times.
The next natural step for the use of music would be that of victory and triumph. The first notice of this kind is the song of Miriam. And here we may rightly conjecture the introduction of an Egyptian, and therefore cultured element. " Miriam took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances " (Exod. xv. 2o).
I have hereto annexed the print of a Chinese procession taken from the description of a traveller into that country; by which a good composer would well know how to make a proper choice of what might be exhibited, and what was fit to be left out; especially according as the dance should be, serious or burlesque. In the last case; even the horses might be represented by a theatrical imitation.
Bride and Groom dancing
Pray let me introduce you to
This little dancing family;
For morning, afternoon, and night
They danced away so happily.
They twirled round about,
They turned their toes out;
The people wondered what the noise
Could all be about.
They danced from early morning,
Till very late at night;
Both in-doors and out-of-doors,
With very great delight.
And every sort of dance they knew,
From every country far away;
And so it was no wonder that
They should keep dancing all the day.
In sunshine or in rain;
And when they all left off,
Why then—they all began again.
It is curious to find that even at so late a period as the time of Queen Mary, the shepherds still officiated at weddings and other merrymakings in their villages, so as to excite the jealousy of the professors of the joyous science.
The accompanying wood-cut, from a MS. in the French National library, may represent such a rustic merry-making.
In the illustration, of early fourteenth-century date, the scene of the dance is not indicated; the minstrels themselves appear to be joining in the saltitation which they inspire.
In the illustration, reproduced from Mr. Wright’s “Domestic Manners of the English,” we have a curious picture of a dance, possibly in the gallery, which occupied the whole length of the roof of most fifteenth-century houses; it is from a MS. of fifteenth-century date.
In all these instances the minstrels are on the floor with the dancers, but in the latter part of the Middle Ages they were probably—especially on festal occasions—placed in the music gallery over the screens, or entrance-passage, of the hall.
The Nautch Girls are the singing and dancing girls of the East. They are gorgeously attired in robes of embroidered silk and muslin, and covered with jewels. They attend the public and private festivals and entertain the company bu their soft and voluptuous songs, and graceful attitudes.
The dances of the Nautch Girls consist in sudden transitions. The movement is sometimes slow and graceful; then by a change of the music it becomes all life, and exhibits the most rapid succession of violent actions, the performers twirling round with the velocity of a spinning top, and for such a length of time that it almost makes a person giddy to look at them.
Sword-dance to the sound of the Bagpipe.--Fac-simile of a Manuscript in the British Museum (Fourteenth Century).
-The Dance called "La Gaillarde."--Fac-simile of Wood Engravings from the "Orchésographie" of Thoinot Arbeau (Jehan Tabourot): 4to (Langres, 1588).