ROM the first formation of societies,” says Jean Jacques Rousseau, ” Song and Dance, true children of Love and Leisure, became the amusement, or rather the occupation, of idle assemblies of men and women.” Like Poetry and Music, to which it is closely allied, Dancing, properly so-called — the choregraphic art, that is to say — was probably unknown to the earliest ages of humanity. Savage man, wandering in forests, devouring the quivering flesh of his spoils, can have known nothing of those rhythmic postures which reflect sweet and caressing sensations entirely alien to his moods. The nearest approach to such must have been the leaps and bounds, the incoherent gestures, by which he expressed the joys and furies of his brutal life. X INTRODUCTION But when men began to form themselves into groups, this artless impulse became more flexible ; it accepted rules and submitted to laws. Dancing, a flower of night, is said to have germinated under the skies of the Pharaohs ; tradition speaks of rounds, symbolic of sidereal motion, circling beneath the stars on the august soil of Egypt, mighty mother of the world. It manifested itself at first in sacred sciences, severe and hieratic ; yet even then it babbled brokenly of joy and grief in the processions of Apis. Later on, in the course of ages, it became interwoven with all the manifestations of popular life, reflecting the passions of man, and translating the most secret movements of the soul into physical action. From the solemnity of religious rites, from the fury of warfare, it passed to the gaiety of pastoral sports, the dignity and grace of polished society. It took on the splendour of social festivities, the caressing and voluptuous languors of love, and even dolefully followed the funeral train. As early as the year 2545 b.c. we find traces of the choregraphic art. Hieratic dances, bequeathed by the priests of ancient Egypt, were held in high honour among the Hebrews. But no antique race gave themselves up so eagerly to the art as the Greeks. The word ” dancing ” gives us but a feeble idea of their conception of the art. With them it was Nomas or Orchesis, the art of expressive gesture, governing not only the movement of the feet, but the discipline of the body generally, and its various attitudes. Gait, movement, even immobility, were alike subject to its laws. To them it was, In fact, a language, governing all movements, and regulating them by rhythm. In Greece, cradle of the arts and of legend, the Muses manifested themselves to man as a radiant choir, led by Terpsichore. On the slopes of Olympus and Pelion, the chaste Graces mingled with forest Nymphs In Rounds danced under the silvery light of the moon. Hesiod saw the Muses treading the violets of Hippocrene under their alabaster feet at dawn In rhythmic measure. Fiction Interlinked Itself with reality : mad with joy, Bacchantes whirled about the staggering Sllenus, and the daughters of Sparta eagerly imitated the martial exercises of their warriors. A whole world of dreams peopled the poetic Greece of long ago. In the INTRODUCTION xi hush of forests, before sacred altars, in sunshine, under star-light, bands of maidens crowned with oak-leaves, garlanded with flowers, passed dancing in honour of Pan, of Apollo, of Diana, of the Age of Innocence, and of chaste wedlock. The Romans imitated the Greeks in all the arts, borrowing their dances just as _ they adored their gods. But primitive Rome was still barbaric when the arts were, shining in incomparable splendour ir^ Greece. Romulus had given a sort of savage choregraphy to Rome. Nuhia instituted a solemn religious dance, practised only by the Salian priests. The arts of Greece soon degenerated after their migration to Rome. The virginal dances of early Greece, the feasts of sacred mysteries, the Feast of Flora, so lovely in its first simplicity of joy in the opening flowers and caressing sunshine of returning spring, became unrecognisable, serving as pretexts for every kind of licence. ~ Theatrical dancing, howeve^, attained ^ extraordinary perfection among the Romans, and pantomime, an art unknown to the Greeks, had its birth among their rivals. After centuries of folly, which brought about the downfall of the great race, the art of dancing disappeared. It is to be trace.d again during the persecutions of the early Church, moving among the solitary retreats of the first Christians, who, no doubt, bore in mind the sacred dances of the Hebrews. In the Church of St., Pancras at Rome there still exists a sort of stage, separated from the altar, on which, we are told, priests and- worshippers joined in measures led by their Bishop. These traditional rites, derived from the Scriptures, and perpetuated by an artless faith, degenerated in their turn, and served at last as pretexts for impure spectacles. A papal decree of 744 abolished dancing round churches”” and in cemeteries. A reflection from these sacerdotal dances gleams out again long afterwards in the Castle of St. Angelo itself, where a nephew of Sixtus IV. composed ballets, and at the Council of Trent, which concluded with a ball of Cardinals and Bishops. Meanwhile the darkness of night had fallen on the history of secular\ dancing, a darkness that endured for centuries. We know that Childe- xii INTRODUCTION bert proscribed it in his dominions. We know, too, that the Gauls and the Franks, more especially the former, were much addicted to courtly and pastoral dancing. At the Court of France, the origin of dancing is dimly associated with the rise of chivalry. The documents referring to it are rare and dubious. Still, we divine that the Middle Ages formed one of the most curious epochs in French dancing. Tales of chivalry speak constantly pf warriors who, without laying aside their harness, danced to measures chanted by ladies and maidens. Apres la panse vient la danse (after good cheer comes dancing), says an old Gallic proverb, which seems to show that it was customary to dance after a feast. We know that each province had its characteristic dances, which the lower orders practised with great vigour. Among these were Rounds and Branles, the Bourrees of the peasants of Auvergne, Minuets, the Farandoles of Languedoc, the Catalan Bails, &c. Two of these early dances have survived to our own times under the names of the Carillon de Dunkerque and the Boulangere. During the interval when dancing found a refuge in the rural districts of France, enlivening popular festivals and delighting domestic gatherings, masquerades were the favourite amusement of the Court. They denatur- alised the original dances of chivalry, but, on the other hand, they constituted the first expression of the ballet. In spite of the sinister catastrophe known as the “Ballet des Ardents, masquerades remained in favour for two centuries, and the character of dancing was but very gradually modified. Meanwhile Italy, under the impulse given by the Medici, awoke to a knowledge of the literature and arts of ancient Greece and Rome. Thanks to these, choregraphy revived once more, after a slumber of several centuries. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw it flourishing at every Court. Under the patronage of Louis XIIL, of Richelieu, and of Henry IV., it took on a peculiarly French character. The dances in vogue at the French Court were the Pavane, a grave, solemn, almost haughty measure, and the Courante. Dancing had followed Catherine de’ Medici to France, and formed a feature of all the festivities she organised with so much splendour. But INTRODUCTION xlii the stateliness that had marked it among the cloaks and heavy swords of knights, and the long gem-laden robes of ladies, gave way to a liveliness, an animation, a certain voluptuous character under Italian influences. This influence of Catherine’s not only added splendour to Court functions, but spread a taste for dancing throughout France. The Queen, moreover, organised allegorical ballets, thus laying the foundations of opera, which the Romans in some sort foreshadowed in their declamation of poems to the rhythmic sound of instruments. Raising the character of masquerades by associating them more closely with the arts of music and dancing, Catherine de’ Medici further brought about the evolution of the masked ball. This same period, too, gave birth to those Dances of Death imagined by .Albert Diirer, Orcagna, and Holbein, sinister allegories masking the bitterest satires, terrible utterances of the oppressed, claiming equality at least in death. We come now to that great century when all the arts burst forth into dazzling blossom, when everything seemed to flash and quiver under a novel impulse. Hitherto, the theatre had ministered only to the amusement of the Court; it now opened its doors to the populace, and the populace entered with delight. Women made their first appearance on the stage. Louis XIV. founded the Academy of Dancing, and, anxious to give a new prestige to the art, he himself took part in the Court ballets. But the fairy pageants of his youthful reign disappeared during his dreary and devout old age. Spectacles and dances, less solemn in character, but infinitely more refined and exquisite, came into vogue again under the Regency, and during the reigns of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. This was the epoch of the coquettish Gavotte and the graceful Minuet, the apogee of elegance. The dances of the eighteenth century had a charm all their own ; with their supple and rhythmic grace they combined a dignity which surrounded man, and, in a still greater degree, woman, >with an atmosphere of beauty. A constellation of dancers, male and female, gave a dainty grace hitherto unknown to the dances of the eighteenth century. But there was a fearful morrow to those days of supreme elegance and xiv INTRODUCTION careless gaiety which, as we look back upon them now through the trans- parent gauze of a century, seem to shimmer with a thousand tantalising and delicate tints — days like some sweet vision, in which coquettish marquises, powdered and jasmine-scented, smiled unceasingly as in the rosy pastels bequeathed to us by the masters of their times. The roar of Revolution broke in upon the dream ; kings, women, and poets were dragged on tumbrils to the scaffold, while cannon thundered along the frontiers. And yet dancing went on, but now it was the sinister dancing of the red-capped Carmagnole to the refrain of Ca ira. Men and women danced round the scaffold, their feet stained with blood. A strange frenzy seemed to have taken possession of the nation. Did they seek oblivion in move- ment, a diversion from misery, horror, and alarms \ Twenty-three theatres and eighteen hundred public balls were open every evening immediately after the Terror. Women attended them clad in the garments of ancient Greece, with sandalled feet and bare breasts and arms. The Empire was hardly favourable to the development of dancing. But soldiers danced on the eve of battle, eager to forget the dangers of the morrow, and a certain number of official balls took place during the Consulate of Bonaparte and the reign of Napoleon. After a feverish interval, while Napoleon’s star faded on the horizon of the world, two planets rose in the firmament of Opera — Taglioni and Fanny Elssler. Other stars succeeded them, but never eclipsed their radiance. The Tuileries were far from gay under Louis XVIII. and Charles X. ; but after some preliminary dancing on M. de Salvandy’s famous volcano, choregraphy made its appearance again in the King’s household in 1830, And while the Valse a deux temps and the Galop (introduced from Hungary) whirled and eddied in Parisian ball-rooms, the elite of society often assembled at the magnificent balls given at the Tuileries and the English and Austrian Embassies. A veritable revolution took place in dancing at this period. The middle classes developed a passion for balls, which had hitherto been confined almost exclusively to the aristocracy, save for the rustic festivals of country districts. Unable, however, to enjoy the amusement in their own small rooms, dancers soon flocked to public saloons, and waltzed at Ranelagh, at Beaujon, at Sceaux and at Tivoli. INTRODUCTION xv These balls, which became famous for their splendour, and the distinc- tion of the society frequenting them, were imitated on a humbler scale by the students and grisettes who danced the Cancan and the Chahut at the Chaumiere, the Prado, Mabille, and the Closerie des Lilas. Waltzing and Galoping were practised with furious energy. Pritchard, tall, lean, dark and taciturn ; Chicard of the ruddy countenance ; Brididi the graceful ; Mogador, Clara Fontaine, Rigolboche, and above all, Pomare, became the kings and queens of Paris. Another overwhelming revolution took place in 1844 with the intro- duction of the Polka, which invaded saloons, drawing-rooms, shops, and even the streets. The Waltz and the Galop were forsaken, and Polka- mania set in. Cellarius and Laborde fostered the public enthusiasm. And all Paris laughed gleefully when Levassor and Grassot danced the Polka at the Palais-Royal, Presently Markowski arrived on the scene, glorified by a halo of traditions. He brought the Mazurka. He created the Schottische, the Sicilienne, the Quadrille of the Hundred Guards, in which Mogador excelled, and the Folly of Dance shook her bells unceasingly from dark to dawn. Opera-balls took on a new splendour under the sway of Musard. People braved suffocation in the crowded auditorium to see the King of the Quadrille, as he was called, conducting a huge orchestra, among the effects of which the noise of breaking chairs, and the detonation of fire- arms, were introduced at regular intervals ! Musard is said to have produced extraordinarily sonorous sounds by these means. Dancing still flourished under the Second Empire. The Court balls were magnificent functions, but the public balls were deserted one by one, and gradually disappeared. The old Closerie des Lilas is transformed into BuUier, Mabille no longer exists. We have the Moulin Rouge still, but it has little of the frank gaiety of the original public ba,ll. The Waltz and the Cotillion still reign in our ball-rooms, but modern Greece, more faithful than ourselves to its choregraphic traditions, retains the Candiota graven on the shield of Achilles, and traces of those Pyrrhic dances which led the Spartans to victory. In this brief summary of the History of ‘Dancing, we have concerned xvi INTRODUCTION ourselves primarily with classic and with French dancing. In the course of the work we propose to deal more fully with the dances of the East, of Spain, of Italy, and of the various other European countries in which we have been able to trace the records of the art. We shall also have something to say about savage dances. We shall pass in review dances impregnated with the voluptuous traditions of the Moors, such as the Fandango and the Bolero, the lively and impassioned Tarantella, the frenzied measures of the Bayaderes, the amorous languors of the Almees, and the curious rites of various tribes. In the brief sketch we have now made, the reader will have observed that Dancing, born with the earliest human societies, identified with every form of worship, has followed in the wake of progress, and developed with it. More enduring than the stone of monuments, in spite of its airy and diaphanous nature. Dancing has left its traces among all peoples, all customs, all religions, and still survives among us to some extent. Dancing, like all human institutions, has obeyed the law of eternal reaction. It disappeared, and burst forth into life again. It seems now to have entered on another phase of decline. But the sun will shine out once more, and Dancing will revive.