A Dance Through Time
Images of Western Social Dancing from the Middle Ages to Modern Times
By Jeremy Barlow
(Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Paperback, 9781851242993, 121pp.)
Publication Date: September 2012
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A knees-up at the county fair. A duo of dancing ogres. A celebratory circle dance at London’s Piccadilly Circus. All of these lively scenarios feature in this enchanting survey of dance illustration throughout the centuries. But what can these vibrant—and often irreverent—images reveal to us about the history of dance and our changing attitudes toward it over time? Drawing on a range of materials from the Bodleian Library, including manuscripts, visual art, dance cards, and invitations to balls, A Dance Through Time explores the imaginative ways in which artists and illustrators have responded to the challenge of creating a sense of movement. Social dancing reveals a dynamic tension between decorum and disregard, and for centuries artists have conveyed this in a highly stylized manner that makes use of curved forms to mimic gracious gestures and angular lines to represent those deemed showy or uncouth. Here, each illustration is carefully analyzed for what it shows us about the behavioral expectations of the time.Lavishly illustrated, this book takes readers on a captivating journey through the changing fashions in European dance—from the waltz to the cha cha to the unbridled energy of rock and roll—providing ample insight into its history and colorful imagery.
Jeremy Barlow is a writer, performer, and broadcaster whose studies have focused on English popular music and dance music from the sixteenth to eighteenth century. He is the author of The Cat and the Fiddle: Images of Musical Humour from the Middle Ages to Modern Times.
“A visual feast for lovers of dance.”
“Jeremy Barlow takes well-chosen examples of dance illustrations—in which the Bodleian library is particularly rich—to trace enduring human, social, and cultural themes, providing fascinating insights into the history of dance in the process.”
-Richard Ralph, editor of Dance Research
"Images of dance are potent sources of information, but only if interpreted judiciously. In this book, not only does Jeremy Barlow elucidate the selected pictures from his deep knowledge of both art and dance, but he also offers the reader rich insights into dance across time."—Anne Daye, TrinityLaban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
-Anne Daye, TrinityLaban Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
A Dance Through Time by Jeremy Barlow is a volume of commentary on a lavish collection of dance illustrations from the thirteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Barlow’s ability to point up and interpret details in many images in the book is both impressive and enlightening. This is a well-produced, thoroughly researched volume which will be of interest to those concerned with the deeper meaning and mores of Western social dance through eight centuries."