Dance History: An Introduction

By Janet Adshead-Lansdale; June Layson | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Regional evidence for social dance with particular reference to a Yorkshire spa town, Harrogate, UK

Patricia Mitchinson


6.1 INTRODUCTION

The Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate was identified as the focal point for research in the knowledge that ‘spas’ or ‘watering places’ are historically reputed for their social activities of which dancing was an integral and important feature. The social life of the south of England spas such as Bath and Cheltenham is fairly well documented but, although the north of England spas are frequently referred to, little seems to be known of their dancing activities. The aim of the investigation was to discover whether this Yorkshire spa would prove to be characteristically similar to other better-known spas in terms of social dance trends. It is possible that the processes outlined here could be applied to historical studies in other regional cultures.

A regional locality can refer to any area or district delineated for the purposes of the study. It could, for example, encompass a whole or parts of a city, a town or village. A locality, might, therefore be identified for its urban or rural characteristics although inevitably there will be points of overlap.

There may be a number of possible reasons for identifying a specific locality for a dance history study. The distinctive character of a particular city, town or village could be a significant factor in determining the nature of the historical study. Special features may exist such as buildings of particular dance interest. The local city dance hall or palais de danse, the spa town assembly rooms, are landmarks in the history of dance and as such provide possible sources for investigation. The existence of other dancing places such as village maypoles or local ‘dancing stones’ may provide additional clues to the context in which the dance activity arose, for example, social or traditional, and the type of dance activity which took place there.

A significant example of a building providing a clue to an aspect of dance history exists in the city of Norwich, England, where a local cinema carries the name ‘Noverre’. To anyone unfamiliar with the history of dance this name may well be meaningless, but to someone more knowledgeable it will be associated with the celebrated Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810). Further enquiries would reveal that this same Noverre was related to a well-known family of Norwich dancing masters and this could provide the basis for subsequent historical research (see Fawcett 1970).

-81-

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