Early English and Mediaeval Dancing to the 14th Century.

Early English and Mediaeval Dancing to the 14th Century. Dancing in Churches and Religious Dancing. The Gleemen's Dance. Military Dances. The Hornpipe. Tumbling and Jest Dances. Illustrations of Gleemen's Dance, Hornpipe, Sword Dances, Tumbling and Various Comic Dances.

The last illustration from the Baths of Constantine brought us into the Christian era, although that example was not of Christian sentiment or art. It is possible that the dance of Salome with its diabolical reward may have prejudiced the Apostolic era, for we find no example of dancing, as exhibiting joy, in Christian Art of that period. The dance before Herod is historical proof that the higher classes of Hebrews danced for amusement.

As soon, however, as Christianity became enthroned, and a settled society, we read of religious dances as exhibiting joy, even in the churches. Tertullian tells us that they danced to the singing of hymns and canticles. These dances were solemn and graceful to the old tones; and continued, notwithstanding many prohibitions such as those of Pope Zacharias (a Syrian) in A.D. 744. The dancing at Easter in the Cathedral at Paris was prohibited by Archbishop Odo in the 12th century, but notwithstanding the antagonism of the Fathers, the dances were only partially suppressed.

They were common on religious festivals in Spain and Portugal up to the seventeenth century and in some localities continue even to our own time. When S. Charles Borromeo was canonized in 1610, the Portuguese, who had him as patron, made a procession of four chariots of dancers; one to Renown, another to the City of Milan, one to represent Portugal and a fourth to represent the Church. In Seville at certain periods, and in the Balearic Isles, they still dance in religious ceremonies.

We know that religious dancing has continually been performed as an accessory to prayer, and is still so used by the Mahommedans, the American Indians and the Bedos of India, who dance into an ecstasy.

Gleemen's dance, 9th century. From Cleopatra, Cotton MS. C. viii., British Museum.

Fig. 29: Gleemen's dance, 9th century. From Cleopatra, Cotton MS. C. viii., British Museum.

It is probable that this sort of mania marked the dancing in Europe which was suppressed by Pope and Bishop. This choreomania marked a Flemish sect in 1374 who danced in honour of St. John, and it was so furious that the disease called St. Vitus' dance takes its name from this performance.

Christmas carols were originally choric. The performers danced and sang in a circle.

The illustration (fig. 43) of a dance of angels and religious shows us that Fra Angelico thought the practice joyful; this dance is almost a counterpart of that amongst the Greeks (fig. 11). The other dance, by Sandro Botticelli (fig. 44), is taken from his celebrated "Nativity" in the National Gallery. Although we have records of performances in churches, no illustrations of an early date have come to the knowledge of the writer.

Dancing to horn and pipe. From an Anglo-Saxon MS.

Fig. 30: Dancing to horn and pipe. From an Anglo-Saxon MS.

That the original inhabitants of Britain danced—that the Picts, Danes, Saxons and Romans danced may be taken for granted, but there seems little doubt that our earliest illustrations of dancing were of the Roman tradition. We find the attitude, the instruments and the clapping of hands, all of the same undoubted classic character. Tacitus informs us that the Teutonic youths danced, with swords and spears, and Olaus Magnus that the Goths, &c., had military dances: still the military dances in English MSS. (figs. 31, 32) seem more like those of a Pyrrhic character, which Julius Caesar, the conqueror of England, introduced into Rome. The illustration (fig. 29) of what is probably a Saxon gleemen's dance shows us the kind of amusement they afforded and how they followed classic usages.

Anglo-Saxon sword dance. From the MS. Cleopatra, C. viii., British Museum.

Fig. 31: Anglo-Saxon sword dance. From the MS. Cleopatra, C. viii., British Museum.