To some extent early music has been with us for some time–to choose a few one might mention Palestrina, Bach and Handel. But the real beginnings began with Arnold Dolmetsch and the revival of early instruments. But it was still the preoccupation of a select few. The popular interest developed in the 1960s with such groups as The Early Music Consort and Musica Reservata. Since then such popular groups have disappeared and have been replaced especially by Baroque groups playing ‘authentic instruments’ who appear in similar situations to groups playing modern instruments.
Arnold Dolmetsch perhaps was also the first to show an interest in Early Dance. This was taken up by his wife Mabel Dolmetsch who not only organized performances but more influentially produced manuals, the first in 1949 which was Dances of England and France c.1450 to 1600. Another perhaps even more influential teacher was Melusine Wood who produced in 1952 Historical Dances (Twelfth to Nineteenth Century). These two women were the pioneers and their position in the revival of Early Dance must be recognized; yet we must recognize that they both made errors and omission, some of which continue to this day.
All public performers of Early Music are professionals; but most performers of Early Dance are amateurs and what a great time we have had. But there is a need for more professional groups who study the basic texts and perform according to them with the appropriate instruments and costumes.
I was present both for the revival of Early Music and Early Dance in the 1960s.
Robert Mullally was a student of Historical Dance with Wendy Hilton and has since specialized in writing about medieval and early Renaissance social dance. His PhD, from King’s College, London, on the medieval French dance, the carole, was later published by Ashgate. He has edited and translated the Brussels basse danse book for Dance Books and is about to complete an edition and translation of Domenico da Piacenza’s De Arte Saltand again for Dance books He has also published articles on Early Dance and related subjects in various well-known academic journals (both British and continental) and has contributed on Early Dance both to the Oxford English Dictionary and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.