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Chapter Five

Society Dancing, the 15th to 18th Centuries. Out-of-door Dances. Chamber Dancing. Comic Dances. The Ball. Illustrations from Italian 15th Century, German 15th and 16th Centuries, French 15th, 16th, 17th, English 15th, 16th and 18th Centuries Dancing.

Page One

Concerning the dance as a means of social intercourse, it does not appear to have been formulated as an accomplishment until late in the thirteenth century, and at a later date was cultivated as a means of teaching what we call deportment, until it became almost a necessity with the classes, as is shown by the literature of that period.

Italian dance
Fig. 37: Italian dance. From an engraving, end of 15th century, attributed to Baccio Baldini.

The various social dances, such as the Volte, the Jig and the Galliard, although in early periods, not so numerous, required a certain training and agility. These, however, soon became complicated with many social and local variations, the characteristics of which are a study in themselves.

Italian dancing
Fig. 38: Italian dancing,
the end of the 15th century.

The dances (figs. 37 and 38) in a field of sports, from an Italian engraving of the fifteenth century, show us nothing new; indeed, with different costumes it is very like what we have from Egypt (fig. 3), only a different phase of the action, and the attitude of this old dance is repeated even to our own time.

In the Chamber dance by Martin Zasinger (fig. 39), of the fifteenth century, no figures are in action, but we see an arrangement of the guests and musicians, from which it is evident that the Chamber dance as a social function had progressed and that the "Bal pare," etc., was here in embryo.

The flute and viol are evidently opening the function and the trumpets and other portions of the orchestra on the other side waiting to come in.

Chamber dance
Fig. 39: Chamber dance, 15th century. From a drawing by Martin Zasinger.

The stately out-door function, in a pleasure garden, from the "Roman de la Rose" (fig. 40) illustrates but one portion of the feature of a dance, another of which is described in Chaucer's translation:
"They threw y fere
Ther mouthes so that through their play
It seemed as they kyste alway."

Dancing in a 'pleasure garden'
Fig. 40: Dancing in a "pleasure garden", end of the 15th century.
French, from the "Roman de la Rose," in the British Museum.

Fancy dress and comic dances have handed down the same characteristics almost to our own time. The Wildeman costume dance (fig. 41) is interesting in many respects, it not only shows us the dance, but the costume and general method of the Chamber.
The fifteenth century comic dancers in a fete champetre (fig. 42) and those of the seventeenth century by Callot (fig. 52) are good examples of this entertainment—in the background of the latter a minuet seems to be in progress.

Fancy dress dance
Fig. 41: Fancy dress dance of Wildemen of the 15th century. From MS. 4379 Harl, British Museum.

The Morris dance (fig. 50) shows us the development that had taken place since the fourteenth century. Allusion has already been made to the beautiful paintings of Botticelli and Fra Angelico, which tell us of Italian choral dances of their period; these do not belong to social functions, but are certainly illustrative of the custom of their day.

Albert Durer (figs. 45, 46) has given us illustrations of the field dances of his period, but both these dances and those drawn by Sebald Beham (fig. 47) are coarse, and contrast unfavourably with the Italian, although the action is vigorous and robust. The military dance of Dames and Knights of Armour, by Hans Burgkmair, on the other hand, appears stately and dignified (fig. 48). This may illustrate the difference between chamber and garden or field dancing.

Комичен танц
Fig. 42: Comic dance to pipe and tabor, end of 15th century.
From pen drawing in the Mediaeval House Book in the Castle of Wolfegg,
by the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet.

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