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Chapter Four

Early English and Mediaeval Dancing to the 14th Century. Dancing in Churches and Religious Dancing. The Gleemen's Dance. Military Dances. The Hornpipe. Tumbling and Jest Dances. Illustrations of Gleemen's Dance, Hornpipe, Sword Dances, Tumbling and Various Comic Dances.

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Танц с мечове и гайди
Fig. 32: Sword dance to bagpipes, 14th century. From 2 B vii.,
Royal MS., British Museum.

That the original inhabitants of Britain danced—that the Picts, Danes, Saxons and Romans danced may be taken for granted, but there seems little doubt that our earliest illustrations of dancing were of the Roman tradition. We find the attitude, the instruments and the clapping of hands, all of the same undoubted classic character.
Tacitus informs us that the Teutonic youths danced, with swords and spears, and Olaus Magnus that the Goths, &c., had military dances: still the military dances in English MSS. (figs. 31, 32) seem more like those of a Pyrrhic character, which Julius Caesar, the conqueror of England, introduced into Rome.

Herodias tumbling
Fig. 33: Herodias tumbling.

The illustration (fig. 29) of what is probably a Saxon gleemen's dance shows us the kind of amusement they afforded and how they followed classic usages.
The gleemen were reciters, singers and dancers; and the lower orders were tumblers, sleight-of-hand men and general entertainers.

What may have been the origin of our hornpipe is illustrated in fig. 30, where the figures dance to the sound of the horn in much the same attitudes as in the modern hornpipe, with a curious resemblance to the position in some Muscovite dances.

The Norman minstrel, successor of the gleeman, used the double-pipe, the harp, the viol, trumpets, the horn and a small flat drum, and it is not unlikely that from Sicily and their South Italian possessions the Normans introduced classic ideas.
Piers the Plowman used words of Norman extraction for them, as he speaks of their "Saylen and Saute." The minstrel and harpist does not appear to have danced very much, but to have left this to the joculator, and dancing and tumbling and even acrobatic women and dancers appear to have become common before the time of Chaucer's "Tomblesteres."

That this tumbling and dancing was common in the thirteenth century is shown by the illustration from the sculpture at Rouen Cathedral (fig. 34), the illustrations from a MS. in the British Museum (fig. 33) of Herodias tumbling and of a design in glass in Lincoln, and other instances at Ely; Idsworth Church, Hants; Ponce, France, and elsewhere.

A tumbler
Fig. 34: A tumbler, as caryatid.
Rouen Cathedral, 13th century.

It is suggested that the camp followers of the Crusaders brought back certain dances and amongst these some of an acrobatic nature, and many that were reprehensible, which brought down the anger of the Clergy.

In the fourteenth century, from a celebrated MS. (2 B. vii.) in the British Museum and other cognate sources we get a fair insight of the amusement afforded by these dancers and joculators.

In the illustration (fig. 35) we get A and C tumblers, male and female; D, a woman and bear dance; and E, a dance of fools to the organ and bagpipe. It will be observed that they have bells on their caps, and it must have required much skill and practice to sound their various toned bells to the music as they danced.
This dance of fools may have suggested or became eventually merged into the "Morris Dance" (fig. 50) of which some account with other illustrations of "Comic Dances" will be given hereafter.

14th century dancers
Fig. 35: 14th century dancers. A and C are tumblers; B, tumbling and balancing to the tambour; D, a woman dancing around a whipped bear; E, jesters dancing.

The man dancing and playing the pipes with a woman on his shoulder (fig. 36), the stilt dancer with a curious instrument (C), and the woman jumping through a hoop, give us other illustrations of fourteenth century amusements.

14th century games
Fig. 36: A, man dancing and playing pipes, carrying a woman; B, jumping through a hoop; C, a stilt dance. 14th century.

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