Category Archives: Thinking about Dancing

Bad Dancing

Dancing is hard. Even country dancing needs practice if it is to be enjoyed by dancers and onlookers. Baroque ballroom and stage dances require training, as well as a great deal of practice and rehearsal.

How can we recognise bad dancing?

Poor technique, unstylish and unmusical performances, dancers who ignore each other and are unmindful of their audience, dancers who simply don’t enjoy dancing – any one of these can make for bad dancing. More than one almost certainly does. Dancers of 18th and early 19th-century choreographies come from a variety of dance backgrounds. Some have no dance background at all. Just like dancers in other genres, they need to be aware of their level of skill and be prepared to work to improve it.

I am not going to draw attention to particular performances that I think are bad. I would much rather concentrate on those I think are good and try to analyse what makes them so. However, I do want to foster greater awareness of the different levels of skill and the constructive criticism that will raise standards among performers of these dances from history.

Dances from the 18th and early 19th centuries are worth the best performances we can give them. That is how we can share and enjoy them, among ourselves and with the wider world.

Good Dancing

What is good dancing? How can we recognise it?

Everyone will have their own opinion as to what is good, and what is bad, dancing.

As a trained dancer, I look for sound technique, musicality and a pleasing style. Technique and musicality should be easy to judge, as long as we know what to look for, whereas style is more difficult to define. In duets and group dances I also want to see rapport between the dancers. Even in social dances I like to feel that the dancers are aware of, and respect, their audience.

Stage dances, of course, need a strong sense of performance. Even apparently abstract choreographies need characterisation. The dancers must know who their characters are and what story they are telling (clues very often lie in the libretti of the operas from which the dance music is taken), even if this is hidden from the audience.

With baroque dance, I also look for a sense of period – though I do not want to see slavishly ‘authentic’ dancing. How can we know how they danced in the 17th and 18th centuries? I want dancing that is engaging, whether it is sustained and elegant or swift and lively.

Here is a performance of a baroque ballroom dance which I like for its speed, clarity and evident pleasure in dancing.