Learning to Dance: Kellom Tomlinson

According to his own testimony, Kellom Tomlinson completed his dance manual in 1724 but was obliged to defer publication following the appearance of The Dancing-Master in 1728. The Art of Dancing was finally published in 1735, complete with more than thirty engraved illustrations. It is probably the most beautiful of the dance treatises produced during the 18th century. Tomlinson brought out a second edition in 1744.

He provided an outline of the book’s contents at the very beginning:

‘The First Book treats of the beautiful Attitudes or Postures of Standing, the different Positions from whence the Steps of Dancing are to be taken and performed; and likewise the Manner of Walking gracefully. The several Sorts of Bows and Courtesies are also fully described, and all or most of the Steps used in Genteel Dancing’

Like Taubert (but unlike Rameau), Tomlinson also included ‘many of those [Steps] properly belonging to the Stage’. The second book of his treatise focuses on the minuet.

Tomlinson’s illustrations are integral to his manual of dancing:

‘the Piece which I here offer to the World will be of general Use to all, who either have learned, or are learning to dance: the Words describing the Manner in which the Steps are to be taken; and the Figures representing Persons as actually taking them’

The engravings were a selling point, but also provided an additional income stream since they could be purchased independently of the text.

Kellom Tomlinson. The Art of Dancing (London, 1735), Book II, Plate VIII.

Kellom Tomlinson. The Art of Dancing (London, 1735), Book II, Plate VIII.

The Art of Dancing begins with three chapters, ‘Of Standing’, ‘Of Walking’ and ‘Of Bowing’ respectively. After a discussion ‘Of the Dancing-Room’, intended to assist pupils in navigating the spaces within which they would be expected to dance duets, Tomlinson gets straight on to steps. Unlike Taubert and Rameau, he defers explanations of the steps and figures of the minuet until after he has dealt with the other steps would-be dancers might meet in danses à deux or figure dances.

The chapters on standing and walking are short, just a couple of pages each. ‘Of Bowing’ (which deals with both gentlemen and ladies) carries on through ten pages. Most of the first chapter, on standing, is devoted to a description of the five positions of the feet. Tomlinson relates these to the graceful and agreeable ways of standing to be used by gentlemen – ‘Position, then, is the different Placing or Setting our Feet on the Floor, whether in Conversation or Dancing’. In his second chapter, Tomlinson makes the link between walking and dancing explicit – ‘And it is further to be noted, that, in Walking with a good Grace, Time and Harmony must be observed, as well as in Dancing’.

Tomlinson begins his third chapter on ‘the different Sorts of Honours’ by explaining  ‘Bows or Courtesies are the outward Marks of Respect we pay to others, … and, if made in a regular Manner, they are, indeed, very grand, noble and highly ornamental’. He obviously saw such honours as integral to manners and polite deportment and very closely linked, in their performance, to dancing. He gives as much instruction on the disposition of the body as on the mechanics of the bow or courtesie, talking of:

‘the handsome Position of the Waiste, neither too much forwards nor backwards, the whole Poise of the Body  being beautiful and upright, directly perpendicular or right down over the Heel or Heels , on which the Poise rests’

The recommended stance contributes much to both the lady’s and the gentleman’s honours.

The fourth chapter, ‘Of the Dancing-Room’ ends with a survey of the dancing body and the elements of dancing. Tomlinson seems to be drawing on John Weaver’s Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing, published in 1721, as well as Feuillet’s Choregraphie. I will return to the ‘Actions and Motions of the Body’, first set out by Feuillet, ‘from whence the whole Body or Art of Dancing is produced’.  Kellom Tomlinson is not specific about his teaching methods, but he makes reference to these basic ‘Actions and Motions’ throughout his explanations of steps.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s