Truth to tell, we began our day in a much more leisurely manner partaking of some very useful background information which led to the rise of dance in theatre. Good Queen Bess, it seems, favoured dancing the Galliard five times before breakfast each day! Music and dance played a huge part in the social scene of the time, for both upper and lower classes, and determined a person’s wealth or status. The opportunities for personal contact meant that music and dance were much in demand and became integral to the court masques of the period.
Our warm-up was a very gentle walk around our space, using only our hands to make initial contact with our partner. We did similarly in groups of three to the beat of a drum calling us to convene. A partner then moulded our shape into the embodiment of a chosen vice. Inevitably, the witches in Macbeth began to emerge. One by one, we entered into our witches’ tableau before delivering “Fair is foul.” A key point to remember is that movement speaks before words.
From here, we began our first courtly dance, the Pavane. This is a sedate and formal dance in which our clothing would create a restriction in our movement and add a sense of social superiority to our bearing, quite apart from our particular character traits. We were set in pairs in a long line and had to use tiny footsteps in order for some progression. A small dancing area did nothing to enhance a host’s social standing.
The country jig was an entirely different dance, much freer, livelier and faster – altogether more complicated. We formed a square shape with two dancers on all four sides. We skipped into the centre with our partner then back again, around the side, through the arch and sometimes found ourselves back in our places ready to start all over again – or not! Thankfully, both dances are available on You Tube and Kate recognised it would be useful if she sent us some helpful notes….
We finished our very enjoyable session with a reading of Beatrice (Much Ado) in which she likens marriage to dance. A very fitting closure of our morning’s activity.