Instructor Jennifer Rose of Berea, Kentucky, teaches a group of fifth grade students a Renaissance dance, Upon a Summer’s Day, from John Playford’s book The English Dancing Master. Rose explains that the dance originated in England during the 17th century but was still being danced in the 1920s in the Appalachian Mountain region of Kentucky. The students perform the dance’s three figures and chorus. The segment includes movements such as "forward-up-a-double," "set," a "turn single," "siding," and "arming." Rose also explains the role dance played in social interaction and courting in the Renaissance.
This resource is part of the Arts in the Renaissance collection.
In 1650, John Playford, a bookseller and publisher, published a book of dances entitled The English Dancing Master. Upon a Summer’s Day was a dance included in this volume. In 1920, English-born Cecil Sharp discovered that this English folk dance was alive and well in the Appalachian Mountain region of Kentucky.
Upon a Summer’s Day is a fine example of the early dances of the British upper classes in the 16th and 17th centuries. At the time, dancing was fashionable for the nobility. The only area in the manor houses and castles suitable for large gatherings was the long, rectangular banquet hall. Circle dances were impossible in these rooms, so many of the figures danced in peasant circle dances of that era were modified to fit into a dance done in two lines.
The "new" dances were given names that meant something to those who danced them, such as the name of the person who composed the dance or a description of the day on which the dance originated. Dancing at high society parties became very stylized, and dancers worked hard not to let their heels touch the floor at all during a dance, including while they may have been standing still.
In addition to the fact that clothing was very constraining (corsets for the ladies and extremely snug-fitting knickers and jackets for the men), members of the nobility were in the habit of wearing wax makeup to cover up the imperfections left from disease and battle. Since clothing rips and wax melts, the movements of the dance, although jubilant, would have been quite refined.
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