We are actually talking about two distinct but inseparable states of mind here – seriousness and misery. Both are indispensable within UK early dance and if the two can be combined, so much the better.
So, what makes early dance so serious in the UK? We have already explored authenticity and politeness, neither of which can tolerate any sign of levity. There is also the weight of history on the dancer’s back. One false step and you are misrepresenting the whole art of dancing as practised in times of yore. Of course, the music is enough to make the lightest-hearted person weep with serious misery.
Misery is occasioned by continual worry over authenticity. Am I being authentic enough? Am I sure that the other people in this dance class are being less authentic than I am? If the answer to either of those questions is ‘No’, the only way is down. Then there are those wretched teachers who not only teach complicated steps and sequences (while insisting on a totally spurious adherence to the sources) but can also dance them in front of you. These are the self-same teachers who take the liberty of changing the steps in the interest of fidelity to the very same sources they claim to be using. The only response is to wallow in misery at the inauthenticity of it all.
Some of these teachers actually add insult to injury by wanting you to ENJOY dancing historical dances. The very idea undermines the whole edifice of politeness. It seriously threatens the seriousness of the whole of the UK early dance world. It makes one miserable simply to contemplate the merest thought of pleasure while dancing.
Serious misery – that is the purpose of the UK early dance world. Nobody can call themselves an historical dancer without both!