Historical dance (or early dance) is a term covering a wide variety of Western European-based dance types from the past as they are danced in the present.
Historical dances are danced as performance, for pleasure at themed balls or dance clubs, as historical reenactment, or for musicological or historical research purposes.
Dances from the early 20th century can be recreated precisely, being within living memory and after the advent of film and video recording. Earlier dance types, however, must be reconstructed from less reliable evidence such as surviving notations and instruction manuals.
Categories of Historical Dance
Very little evidence survives about medieval dance except what can be gleaned from paintings and works of literature from this time period.
Some names of the dances which we know existed during the Middle Ages.
The farandole is also frequently presented as a medieval dance, based on surviving iconography.
The earliest surviving dance manuals come from the Renaissance period, including examples by Italian dance master and composer Fabritio Caroso and French cleric Thoinot Arbeau. Thus we are able to reconstruct the dances with a greater degree of certainty. The large number of dances with Spanish origin reflect the cultural influence of the dominating power of the age.
Basse danse (Bassadance)
La volta, variation on the Galliard
Tourdion, a fast Galliard
It was during the baroque era that Londoner John Playford published The Dancing Master, which, along with similar publications, provides us with a large repertoire of baroque English country dances.
Apart from country dances, the most well-documented baroque dance style was that which was developed at the French court during the 17th century. The term "baroque dance" is often used to refer specifically to this style, reflecting the dominating power of the era.
Dance types include:
The French style was also danced in England where they introduced their own dance type:
Dance During the English Regency
An era of uncertainty in England, with the Napoleonic Wars, periodic riots, and the French Revolution across the Channel. Clothing tended to be light and unrestrictive, encouraging dances with lots of skipping and jumping, such as:
English Country Dance
Dance in the mid-19th century
Starting with the great international polka craze of 1844[where?] anyone who was anyone was dancing. Women were in hoop skirts, and turning dances helped to keep them out of the way.
Five Step Waltz
Dance in the Late 19th Century to About 1910
The dances that were done in the mid-century were still being done at the end of the century, but by fewer people. Dance masters, in vain attempts to maintain their place in society and in the economy, invented dances of greater and greater complexity that people followed with less and less enthusiasm.
The bustle replaces the hoop, which necessitated a few changes in dancing. At the same time, ragtime music begins to gain mainstream respectibility.
Dance in the Ragtime Era
Vernon and Irene Castle bring an air of respectability to couples dancing, and spark what was arguably the largest U.S. dance craze ever. By the end of WWI, these are considered old fashioned.
Dance in the 1920s
It's the roaring twenties, and kids are spoiled. For the first time, there is a class of children who don't have to help to work to support the family. This is an era of highly energetic dances done by the younger generation.
Dance in the 1930s and 1940s
In the peak of the Swing era, more exotic dance styles became ever more popular among younger generations in America, with the influence of Swing music came new artists such as Cab Calloway, Les Brown, Jimmie Lunceford, Louis Jordan, Charlie Spivak, and other popular big Swing bands of the time.
Big Apple (dance)