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Ballroom Dancing: The Development of Two Techniques
It is a fact that emotion stimulates the body into movement. It has been said that “dancing is older than anything except eating, drinking and love”. Civilization and conditioning has taught people to suppress this natural response but the primitive desire still remains. Prehistoric man expressed his emotions by movement. When speech was just developing, even primitive cave drawings depict men dancing. As time went on and language was developed, the expressive movements of early man continued but transformed from spontaneous, formal and lastly traditional aspects. These dances were adapted as parts a social custom. This became the foundation of folk dances.
Throughout the earlier dark ages, dancing was found in every country in the form of traditional folk dances. Dancing was a regular feature of the church festival days in Italy, France and England. Showing as long as people exist, the desire to move will survive. This instinct for movement enabled crude folk dance to survive the dull dark ages.
Dances from this period were drawn from the Christian Era and by the 15th century dance records became popular, documenting the actual dances then in “vogue”. This is when the earliest ballroom dances were documented. One documenter, Thoimot Arbeau published ‘Orchesographie’ in 1588. Arbeau lived in a time of transition where solemn dance was giving way to a livelier dance form. Even in the days of Arbeau, technique was slowly being formed by the dancing masters of the period, but it was not until the latter half of the 17th century, after Louis XIV that the hard and fast rules for execution of the every dance were laid down by the members of the Academy and the five positions of the feet were formulated for the first time.
The ballets presented in these days were spectacular based on technique. The first intertwining of the ballet and ballroom came when professional dancers appeared in ballets and the ballets left the court and went to the stage. When the ballet moved to the stage its technique became considerably enriched. Such changes went on also in ballroom dancing, in 1812, the modern hold made its appearance in ballroom waltzes. And the next advance towards what we call modern dancing was made in the 1840’s when several dances made their appearances in the ballroom. These included the Polka, Mazurka and the Schottische. There was also a trend to drop all decorative steps in ballroom.
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These dancers formed the first Committee of the Ballroom Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. The style, which they developed, is what we call the “English Style”. This style of ballroom has influenced modern ballroom dancing throughout the world and is the style of ballroom that we see today.
Would ballroom have ever been if it did not evolve from folk dance?
Would ballroom be as popular as it is today if not for the changes that began after the war?