Reconstructing Dance from Florence and Holland

Most of what we know about dance in Florence has to do with its political nature. There was dancing at court, at weddings, and during other political celebrations. The renaissance dances attempted to show the dancers as powerful, dignified, and full of virtue. There are sources from this time which mention dancing happening for other reasons, but none of those dances have been recorded and passed down through time. The recreations, at least, seam a lot stiffer and more dignified then the recreations of Dutch dance.

The Dutch dances are now used to demonstrate and celebrate Dutch culture. Because we can not see either of these types of dances as they were performed in the past it is difficult to tell if what we can see now is accurate. A difficulty in accurately recreating the Dutch dances is that the areas of Holland with better preserved costumes have no traditional dances. Several parts of Holland also became reformed and did not participate in dancing. Also, some of the festivals which participated in dance stopped doing so after the Word Wars.

The Renaissance Dance Manuals attempt to explain how to properly dance. They were made within the time that the dances they describe were being performed. They discus principles such as Measure, Memory, Partitioning the ground, Air, Manner, and Body Movement, and also give specific dance steps to follow.

The handbook on “The Dances of the Netherlands” was created in 1944, and so although it did give some specific dance steps, it also attempted to bring back a revival of traditional Dutch dances so as to keep them alive and supplement the culture. It has no discussion on principles of dancing, but a performer would need to have a good grasp of principles similar to those described in the other text if they were to perform the dance well.

The directions given in “The Dances of the Netherlands” regarding how to perform the dances are easier to understand then those in Renaissance Dance Manuals. This may in due in part to the fact that this was written much later and so is attempting to explain how to do something that is no longer commonly done. I believe that I would be able to reconstruct some of the dances it contains, particularly the Cramingnon, as it is described plainly and does not contain any terms which assume that the reader knows what they mean. The Renaissance Dance Manuals used a lot more terms that require previous knowledge, such as “one forward” or “one simple”.

It would be interesting to see several hundred years from now how current dances are preserved as well as these Florentine and Dutch dances. With the technology of video recording, the internet, and other methods of storage they will probably be much more accurate then our recreations are. I would be fascinated to see a recreation of Whip/Nae-Nae or The Macarena and to see how people of the future respond to them.