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Scottish Dancing before the 19th century

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    e.ferguson March 7, 2006, 1:27 a.m. (Message 44519)

    Dear All,
    While looking around on Internet for a quite different topic, I came across 
    this charming excerpt that many of you may like.  It was found on
    Dancing was disliked by the Church of Scotland. In 1649 the General 
    Assembly passed an act prohibiting so-called 'promiscuous dancing' (i.e. in 
    which men danced with women), and this act was reaffirmed in 1701. As a 
    result there was almost no public dancing of any kind in Scotland in the 
    seventeenth century; it had to be done surreptitiously, if at all.  [Note 1 
    Of course this statement does not apply to the Highlands, which was still 
    mainly Catholic at this period, and so not governed by the views of the 
    Church of Scotland]   
    Celtic ornament.   Towards the end of the seventeenth century, however, 
    dancing came out into the open again in Edinburgh as an upper-class 
    recreation, stimulated by the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 
    1680. New dances came into vogue at this time: these were the Country-
    dance, an English type not hitherto known in Scotland, and the Minuet 
    (pronounced 'minaway' in the French manner). The church objected, 
    predictably; pulpit-thumping sermons equating dancing with sexual 
    permissiveness were frequently to be heard in Edinburgh churches during the 
    first ten years of the eighteenth century. But times had changed, and the 
    ladies of Edinburgh defied the church and danced on: a popular dance tune 
    at the time was called 'The de'il stick the minister'. In 1723 an Assembly, 
    or aristocratic dancing-club, was opened in Edinburgh which was to continue 
    until nearly the end of the century.
    The Edinburgh Assembly was in theory open to the general public, in 
    practice confined to 'Persons of Quality, and others of Note'. But 
    assemblies also opened in provincial Scottish towns, and dancing-masters 
    set up teaching practices in areas remote from the capital. Topham remarked 
    in 1775 how dancing-masters earned a good living by teaching large classes 
    of pupils at small individual fees: it is probable that dancing lessons 
    became cheaper as the eighteenth century progressed, so encouraging the 
    spread of dancing downwards socially into the lower middle classes. 
    Certainly there was a vast increase in the amount of dancing done in 
    Scotland, until by the 1770s it had become a major national pastime.
    The Penny Wedding    The Country-dances which had been imported from 
    England soon became acclimatized. New dances of this type, designed to go 
    with Scots folk-tunes, were invented, and experimented with at aristocratic 
    country-house parties; indeed, it is likely that many of the great houses 
    had their individual dancing traditions between 1730 and 1780. Instructions 
    for forty-eight new, native country-dances are preserved in a manuscript 
    written by David Young in Edinburgh in 1740, which is entitled 'A 
    Collection of the newest Countrey Danced Perform'd in Scotland'.  
    The Reel also flourished during this period; and a new type of slow reel, 
    the Strathspey, originating presumably from the Spey valley in Inverness-
    shire, appeared in the Lowlands during the 1760s and caught on very 
    David Johnson
    Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century
    Oxford University Press, 1972   pp. 120-121
    Could some Lady from Edinburgh tell us if the popular dance tune mentioned 
    is still in existence?  
    Perhaps the Minister on the Loch would like to comment?  (;-))
    Eric T. Ferguson, 
    van Reenenweg 3, 3702 SB  ZEIST  Netherlands
    tel: (+31)(0) 30-2673638    
    e-mail: x.xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxx.xx

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