January 22, 2024

About the Author: Urpi

Urpi is the lead dance instructor at S&C Dance, where her passion for movement knows no bounds. Alongside her captivating dance classes, she also teach singing!

Previously, in The History of Dance Part 1: The Origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, we looked at the dance testimonies left by the two greatest civilisations that set the pillars of the Western world.

First, we went back to the times of wonderful Greece; according to dance historians, the Greeks were the first to consider dance as an art, exalting its sacred and ritualistic character and maintaining it as a serious and respectful art worthy of study and practice.

Then, when the amazing Roman Empire arose, even though dance was still considered a very important art, the Romans started to exalt its entertaining and pleasing character as dance started to be performed with other genres of theatre such as pantomime, comedy and tragedy, which would set the stage for the evolution of dance through time until movement in dance began to be registered to avoid losing the dances.

So, let’s continue travelling in time and get situated first in the darkest times of the Middle Ages.

Painting of women dancing

The Marginalisation of Dance in the Middle Age

Certainly, the Middle Ages for Dance between the 5th and 15th centuries was repeatedly described as the dark age for dance as dance had little relevance in society as an art principally due to the marginalization to which the Church subjected dance.

At those times, the Church considered dance as a pagan rite; even certain aspects of the human body started to be considered taboo, and the expression of oneself freely through the body also started to be prohibited as some people in the Church believed dance could call to commit sins.

As a result, the record of many dance plays was lost, and the creation and practice of other dances were also forbidden except for some.

For instance, at the ecclesiastical level, the only vestige was the “Dances of Death”, which had a moralizing purpose.

In the aristocratic courts, there were “Low Dances” because dancers shuffled their feet without moving their bodies too much. In this way, as dance as an art stopped having the relevance it used to have in the past, dance survived thanks to his folkloric character.

More important were the popular dances, which could not be stopped from being practised by the general public. Examples of these popular dances in Europe were the “Moorish Dances”, “Carol”, “Estampie”, “Branle”, “Jumperello”, and one of the most famous popular Italian dances, the “Tarantella”.

Fortunately, this dark time for dance did not last too long, and dance would recover its light later on.

Sketch of the dancing couple in the vintage suits

The Revitalisation of Dance in the Renaissance

Thankfully, after the period of marginalisation of the Middle Ages, a new era called the Renaissance brought hope back to dance.

Renaissance was the name given to the broad cultural movement in Western Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries, a transition period between the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Age. This period of time gave a great revitalisation to dance due to the new predominant role of the human being over religion, in such a way that many authors consider this era the birth of modern dance.

The advent of the Renaissance brought a new attitude towards the body, arts and dance.

The courts of Italy and France became the centre of new developments in dance thanks to patronage, which financed the dance plays, and of course, thanks to the masters of the dance and musicians who created great dances, resulting in the proliferation of celebrations and festivities.

At the same time, dance became the object of serious studies, and a group of intellectuals, calling themselves the Pleias, started to investigate the past dances to recover the theatre of the ancient Greeks and Romans combining music, sound and dance.

Consequently, this was the time in which detailed dance manuals and instructions were written, especially in Italy, between 1450 and 1455, to preserve the dances which, by the way, are preserved until today, serving to understand better the way to interpret dance with music.

With the birth of a new social class, the bourgeoisie, the city started to appear, and with it, the resurgence of all ancient cultures made man a cultural being.

The humanities were created, and the humanists began to be the educators who taught man philosophy and the arts.

Therefore, dance recovered its relevance as one of the arts expected to be studied and practised by a well-educated person. In Florence, for example, the first masters of dance appeared, and they were the ones who invented steps and choreographies to be presented in the courts.

Among the examples of Renaissance dances, we have “Basse Danse”, “Courante”, “Gallarda”, and “Sarabande”, which were elegant dances performed by couples in very symmetrical choreographies.

Surely, this was a very positive time for dance, and it would continue even more in the next era.

So, we invite you to read part 3 of History of Dance as the fascinating history of Dance still continues and in S&C Dance, we will gladly tell you more about this amazing art.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!