It's time to find out a bit more about this website!
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
MA Public History Final Project
The medieval period should not be thought of as just a time of brutality, misery and hard work but one of art, culture and pleasure. During this time, dancing seems to have been as much a part of life as it is today, with much of society taking part. However, our knowledge of dance has largely been passed down through oral tradition, with very little mentioned within text, meaning this topic has remained relatively understudied and undervalued.
Medieval Dance Online is a MA Public History final project exploring dance practice during the Middle Ages. My aim is to shed light on this area of relatively unknown history, producing an accessible treasure trove of resources, as well as to encourage engagement with the more positive side of our medieval past. By the creation of instructional, educational videos, summary reviews and quizzes, I hope this will encourage people to take an active part in their own heritage.
This project acts as a brief introduction into the world of medieval dance, with much still to be discovered. After my MA, it is my hope to continue to update this website at regular intervals, with further research and even more dances for you to try out!
Nice to meet you! My name is Emily!
Do you love history? Do you enjoy dancing? Well, so do I!
For as long as I can remember I have loved history, from reading Horrible Histories books to visiting ruined castles and abbeys, and from dressing up in historic costumes (which I obviously still do now) to studying it at university! I have always chosen the medieval classes, of course... However, I am not just a MA Public History student with a passion for the Middle Ages, I also love to dance and have been learning to do so since the age of five! Although I trained in ballet, modern and tap, that hasn’t stopped me from trying out new styles, including my latest venture into medieval dance. Combining both of my interests, Medieval Dance Online has been a real labour of love, allowing me a small but personal insight into the everyday lives of the people I have spent so long reading about. I am thrilled to share my website with you and I hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I enjoyed producing it!
Why did I choose these dance styles?
The dances on this website are an interpretation of each of those styles; they do not represent the dance type as a whole. This is because there were many regional varieties that developed throughout the medieval period. My videos simply intend to provide an insight into each dance style.
I have chosen dances from across the centuries, to give a broad sweep of time and to also show the variety of methods we have used to recreate these dances, as unfortunately we cannot always rely on contemporary historical material. For example, the estampie is almost completely reconstructed due to the lack of documented instruction at the time, the almain uses historical material from the early modern period to surmise how the dance would have been performed in the medieval period and the basse dance is based on original material.
As a result of the current pandemic, these few styles have also been selected as they are dances that can be easily demonstrated by one person. My original intention was to have also shown an interpretation of the highly popular carole. However, as a social dance, this is best demonstrated within a group, which is not currently possible. It is my hope to perform and add the carole to the website at a later date, along with other dances.
Throughout my videos, I have used three costumes to give my dance an air of the medieval period and show how steps may have looked with them on. These dresses are somewhat shorter than they would have been in the period and, of course, medieval people would have also worn shoes. However, these allow the movements of my feet to be clearly shown.
The costumes I have used are as follows....
The brown and orange costumes, worn whilst dancing the estampie and almain, were handmade by Joanne Briffett, with the former being based on illuminations from the Luttrell Psalter (1325-40) and the latter based on designs from the 1380s. The pink costume I have used for the basse dance is fifteenth-century Italian in style, loosely based on paintings by Carlo Crivelli and was handmade by Sharon Butler from Pastime Historical Dance. I also took inspiration from later medieval Italian wear for the headdress.
All of my instructional videos were filmed at Titchfield Abbey: a medieval abbey and later country estate in Hampshire, England. Founded in the thirteenth century for Premonstratensian canons, it later became the home of the Earls of Southampton. It is now an English Heritage site, open to visitors all year and definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
Click on the images below to see them in full!
I would like to say a special thank you to Darren Royston from Nonsuch History and Dance Company for his miraculous medieval masterclasses, despite being so far away. He has been an invaluable resource and a constant support throughout my project.
I am also extremely grateful to Ruth Hopkins from the K’antu Ensemble, who very kindly recorded the music specially for my basse dance. It was a lovely piece of music to dance to!
Additionally, I’d like to extend my gratitude to Sharon Butler from Pastime Historical Dance and Joanne Briffett for lending me their beautiful handmade costumes and for all of their advice. It gave my dances a greater sense of authenticity and it was also great fun being able to dress up!
As a final note, I would like to to say a humongous thank you to my mum, dad, sister and Dan as my film crew, reviewers and support team. I could not have done this without you!
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