Historical dance in education – what is it? First and foremost both dance and education are for everyone, irrespective of age and ability and the historical repertoire can cater for all. Dance is a crystallisation of every aspect of life in a given period and adds a dimension to existing knowledge and experience. It is therefore not limited to school pupils or talented students.
Dance on the page is not dance; it is merely a series of marks attempting to describe a physical phenomenon. Dance only truly exists when it is performed and is learned most effectively through “doing”. Until recent times the only way to learn to dance was to be taught by someone demonstrating the movements required. The teacher was, and still is the interpreter of the “marks on paper”.
To approach history through dance, or, for that matter, dance through history, is to experience infinitely more than steps and patterns. For a brief period the dancer is physically inhabiting the past. The immediacy of this experience places demands on both the body and the mind and can inspire an investigation of the context in which the dance exists. The opportunities for further study are endless in this respect. History is regarded by many to be a “dead” subject. By dancing a galliard, a minuet or a quadrille it is alive and will provoke a barrage of questions.
Above all, dancing has always been a source of enjoyment and teaching and learning must come together to achieve pleasure. Our rich dance heritage gives us an insight into dance as it is today whilst enabling us to enjoy the delights of the past. The wealth of source material available enables us to re-create accurately that recreation which lies at the heart of human society.