If the music isn’t stiff and dull, it’s twee. Nowadays, dancing happens to modern popular music. Old dancing is to old music and some of it happens to be classical music – that’s the problem, or is it?
There are several distinct periods of early dance, dictated by the surviving sources (if you want to be serious about it).
- 15th-century (early Renaissance) dancing generally has tuneless and rhythmically incomprehensible music;
- 16th-century (late Renaissance) dancing is to music that veers between raucous and swooningly dull. Either you are a lawyer enjoying a knees-up or an aristocrat with clothes too heavy to allow you to do anything other than walk very slowly;
- Early 18th-century (baroque) dancing is a bit of an exception, because some of the music is fantastic (I love a great chaconne or passacaille). It has energy and emotion – except when it is played too slow or on a scratchy fiddle by a folkie trying to be an early music virtuoso;
- 17th– 19th century (country) dancing could have very tuneful lively music were it not bedevilled by its ‘folk’ roots which makes it either glacially slow or eternally twee.
Actually, I think that (15th-century apart) the problem isn’t the music it’s the musicians (and perhaps some of the dancers, who think they are musicians as well).