Dance Through History — a free period by period survey of the History of Dance

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Early Dance at a Glance

Early Dance – or Historical Dance, as it is also known – covers all dancing for which there are surviving records, ranging from the mediaeval period to the end of the 20th century and, ultimately, beyond.

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Learning the Dances

This varied list of publications and contacts will help get you up on the dance floor of history. Learn more about the many periods of early dance to choose from using the links below.

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Siena dancers

The Middle Ages

What we know of dance in the Middle Ages is tantalisingly little. It comes mainly from rare illustrations in art and literature, and from music.

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Dancers & musicians from Borso's Bible (mid 15th century)

The Early Renaissance c.1445 – c.1535

Performances mounted for court entertainment in fifteenth-century Italy regularly included dancing and eye witness accounts from the French, English and Scottish courts show that dancing was common there too.

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Nonsuch History and Dance Company perform La Volta

The Late Renaissance c.1535 – c.1620

The dances popular at the courts of Europe in first quarter of the sixteenth century are largely those described in the Early Renaissance article. Certainly people are still showing interest in them in the 1520s and early 1530s.

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First Edition Playford

English Country Dance

The first printed source for the Country Dance in Britain is the publication by John Playford in 1651 of The English Dancing Master, a collection of 104 dances, each presented with its own music.

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A baroque solo by Barbara Segal - Early Dance Circle at Charlton House

Baroque Dance 17th and 18th centuries

Baroque dance is the conventional name given to the style of dancing that had its origins during the seventeenth century and dominated the eighteenth century until the French Revolution.

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The Nineteenth Century

The Nineteenth Century opened with Europe at war, but arts and entertainment continued to flourish across borders.

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The Foxtrot 1940's

 20th Century Dance

20th century dancing is now being studied using the same methods that have been applied to earlier periods.

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