Dancing - Master.


Of the Manner of disposing the Body.

TO teach well, it is the Master's Business to begin well : But as the Scholar's Vivacity, or sometimes too close a Pursuit of his Studies, makes him forget most of his Exercises, and commonly that of Dancing, which is not thought so necessary as it really is, since 'tis by that we behave our selves so gracefully in the World, and our Nation is so much distinguished : I have laid down a Plan, or Method of Teaching for the Master to lead his Scholar from one Step to another, and at the same Time instruct him in the different Motions of the Arms, to make them agreeable to the different Steps in Dancing : And as it is essential to dispose the Body in a graceful Posture, that shall be explained in this first Chapter, and also represented by this Figure.

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The Disposition of the Body

THE Head must be upright, without being stiff ; the Shoulders falling back, which extends the Breast, and gives a greater Grace to the Body ; the Arms hanging by the Side, the Hands neither quite open nor shut, the Waste steady, the Legs extended, and the Feet turned outwards. I have endeavoured to make this Figure as expressive as possible, that at the Sight of it any one may form the Body as it ought to be.

I have given it an Attitude, or Posture ready to walk ; for which Reason the left Foot is placed foremost, and the Right ready to move, either to make a Step forwards or sideways, because the Body resting on the Left, the Right by that Means may move easily. I hope after all these Precautions, no one will be so ridiculous to be stiff or formal, which ought to be avoided as much as Affectation ; a just Carriage requiring nothing more than a natural, free, and easy Air, which is to be only gained by Dancing.

Of the Manner of Walking well.

THE Body resting as before represented, it is ready to do what you would have it, either to Walk, make a Bow, or Dance : But as the Manner of Walking well is very useful, because on it depends the first Principle of Dancing [with] a good Air, I shall desire the Reader to observe the easy Method I shall prescribe, in which he will meet with no unnatural Action.

SUPPOSING then the left Foot foremost, as the Figure shews, the Body must be supported by it ; and at the same Time the right Knee bends, and the Heel rises by the Motion of the Body, on the left Leg, which by consequence raises the Right, which by extending the Knee that was bent, and moving it forwards, performs the Action of Walking ; but observe to carry it no farther than the Distance of a Foot between the two, which is the Proportion of a Step, and to set the Heel down before the Toe, which advances the Body on the Foot you rest upon ; whereas if you set the Toe down first, it throws the Body backwards, and is very tiresome. The Legs ought to be very much extended in their due Time, and the Hips turned outwards, because the lower Parts are governed by this commanding Joint, which gives a Disposition to the Knees and Feet : What I mean by the Legs being extended at their due Time, is, that the Knees be stretched out when you move either the one or the other Foot, which will prevent your crossing your Steps, a Fault several People are guilty of for want of Observation ; for having the Knees outwards, and the Legs extended, prevents their Hobling, and even gives the Pan of the Knee, or uses it to a better Situation. I said also, that one ought to extend the Legs in moving them forwards, which will prevent walking too wide, or too close ; and I am certain by following these Rules, no Person can be guilty of the Faults I have mentioned.

THERE ought also to be a Method observed in Walking, which should be neither too fast nor too slow ; the last bordering on Indolence, and the other on Folly ; therefore both Extreams ought to be avoided. I have already said that the Head ought to be upright, and the Waste steady, by which Means the Body will preserve an advantageous Situation. As to the Management of the Arms, let them hang easy by the Side of the Body, observing only, that when you advance with the right Foot, you make a small Motion with the left Arm forwards, which makes a small Contrast and Balance, and follows naturally : But as many, for want of taking Notice, may be ignorant of this Action, I think this Remark no ways unnecessary.

AS to the Manner of Walking, one Foot is to be understood as well as another, in a Step either forwards, backwards, or aside ; but in Dancing, the Name of a Step includes several Steps together, and which are sometimes varied in several Movements, which nevertheless compose but one Step ; as the Boree Step, the Courant Step, the Menuet Step, and many others, which I shall teach the Manner of performing ; and as all these different Movements ought to be taken properly, and the Rules to be followed are grounded on the five Positions, they shall be explained in the following Chapters.

Of the Positions and their Rise.

WHAT is called a Position, is no more than a just Proportion, found out to divide, or bring the Feet nearer together, in a limited Distance, whether the Body be in an easy Balance, or perpendicularly Upright ; or whether it be in Walking, Dancing, or Standing. These Positions were brought to light by the Pains of the late Monsieur Beauchamp, who form'd to himself an Idea of putting this Art into so necessary an Order.

THEY were not known before his Time ; a Proof of his Penetration in this Art, and ought to be look'd upon as Rules that should be followed without any Dispensation. I have been inform'd by himself, that according to the Rules of his Time, they reckon'd but five Steps in Dancing, from which all the rest in practice were derived ; and as he had a fertile Genius, and was ready at Invention, a Qualification as necessary for a Composer of Dances, as well as of Musick, he found that there was nothing of more Importance to support the Body in a graceful Attitude or Posture, and the Steps in a just Measure, than to introduce these five Positions.

Of the first Position.

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The First Position.

THE Positions, as I have already said, being only to give a just Proportion to the Steps, to keep the Body erect and steady ; but to comprehend it with more Ease, it must be observed, that this Figure, as well as the others, only differs by the Positions of the Legs and Feet : For the Body ought always to be upright, and resting on both Legs. This first Position is to have the Legs well extended, the two Heels close together, and the Feet equally turn'd outwards : Its Use is to take the Motion from the closed Step, in a Sink ; because all Steps, which begin by half Coupees ought to be taken from this Position. And the Reason is, that when you sink, if one Foot was behind the other, the Knees would more easily fall in ; whereas the Heels being close together, the Knees turn equally outwards, and moreover the Body appears more straight ; which I shall explain at large in the Manner of taking the Movements, since I only intend here the Explanation of the Positions, and to give a Demonstration of them.

Of the second Position.

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The Second Position.

THIS second Position, by its Situation, shews the Distance to be observed in those open Steps which are made sideways. It represents both Legs asunder, which ought not to be at a greater Distance than the Length of the Foot, which is the just Proportion of a Step, and the true Position of the Body on both Legs, which is demonstrable by the Shoulders being of an equal Height ; for this Reason the Body can easily rest its Weight on either Leg, without using any forced Action, the same as in the open Steps, which are made sideways, jointly with the fifth Position, which are those used in going sideways ; the Fifth being for the cross Step. It must be observed that both the Feet be on the same Line, the Legs extended, and the Feet turned equally outwards, that the Body may rest on both Legs, as in the first Position.

I desire the Reader to have these Positions by heart, not only for the Proportion of the Steps, but also for the Manner of making them, because I shall quote hereafter from what Position a Step is taken, and that by which it ends : Wherefore if a Person does not remember them, instead of making a better Progress, he will be obliged to have recourse to the Beginning of the Book, which will very much retard the Execution of the Step.

Of the third Position.

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The Third Position.

THIS Position is designed for the inclosed Step, as well as others ; and is never perfect but when both Legs are so well extended and closed together, that light cannot be seen between them ; therefore I have taken the more Pains with this Figure, for the more easy Comprehension of this Position ; and that the Eye, the Mirrour of Knowledge, may give more Strength to my Expression, by bringing the Reader to a clearer Understanding of my Meaning.

THE Body rests erect on both Feet, the left Foot foremost, but crossed before the Heel of the Right at the Instep, as shewn by the Figure. This Position is the most necessary in Dancing well, it teaches the Dancer to stand firm, to extend the Knees ; and uses him to that Regularity which is the Beauty of Dancing.

Of the fourth Position.

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The Fourth Position.

THIS Position regulates the Steps forwards or backwards, and gives them their due Proportion which ought to be observed either in Walking or Dancing. It is put in the same Light as the others ; but though the Distance that ought to be between the two Legs does not appear so plain as it would, had they been drawn in a Profile ; yet it is easy to be discern'd by the Perspective, how much the left Foot is advanced before the Right : And what moreover engaged me to put it in a front View, was the exposing all the Parts to Sight. It ought to be observed in this Position, that the Feet be placed one before the other, and in a straight Line, without crossing them, and especially in Dancing ; for by crossing the Feet in a Movement forwards, it happens that one cannot rise again with the same Ease ; and besides it puts the Body out of its Poize, and distorts it.

AS to Walking, if a Person crosses his Legs, it makes him go awry, as well as disorders the Body, which one should take Care of. This indeed ought to be the Master's Care, for ill Habits are sometimes contracted at the Beginning, which prove afterwards very difficult to overcome ; and yet how good soever the Master may be, if the Scholar does not strive to break himself of them, 'tis to little Purpose. Then it will be objected, that a Person has not a Disposition : To that I answer, We have always one when we have a good Will, which argues neither more nor less, and is easy to prove ; for don't we Walk, and make Bows ? Therefore there needs nothing further to be done, than to apply ourselves to make them well, and to walk handsomely : For when you can make a Bow with a good Grace, you are drawn insensibly to have a Taste for Dancing.

IT may be urged further still, that there ought to be a good Disposition to dance well : I own it ; and yet Persons may dance tolerably well, I'll be bold to say, without a Disposition ; for Dancing is no more than to know how to sink and rise properly.

Of the fifth Position.

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The Fifth Position.

THIS last Position, as I have already said, is for the cross Step, moving either to the Right or Left, and is inseparably from the Second ; for from these two Positions the Body can move on any Side without turning, and still preserve its Presence. But to perform it as it should be, the Heel of the Foot that crosses, should not go beyond the Toe of the hinder Foot, which would be contrary to all Rules, for the Body would not find its Centre : Besides, by the foremost Foot going beyond the hindmost Toe, the Knee of the hindmost Leg would fall inwards : It may be seen by the Figure, where the Feet are no more cross'd than the Rule permits.

I have taken Care in all these Positions, that the Body should rest firm on both Legs, which shews by the Distance observed, one may move one Foot, resting the Body on the other without any forced Action. I fhall not speak of the false Positions, because they seem to me to be useless for young People to learn, but leave them to those Masters who have a Fancy to teach them their Scholars ; they are indeed very frequent in Comick or Grotesque Dancing.

Of Honours in General.

IT is very necessary for every one, in what Station of Life soever he be, to know how to take off his Hat as he ought, and to make a handsome Bow ; But as Bows are made after different Manners, according to different Occasions requiring them, I shall explain each in particular, agreeable to the Figures representing the principal Actions of the Body, after I have shewn in the following Chapter the Manner of taking off and putting on the Hat again ; a very useful Instruction for Youth, who will not easily be made sensible of the Consequence thereof.

Of the Manner of taking off the Hat, and putting it on again.

AFTER having demonstrated the Positions, and spoke of Honours in general, to pursue the Order I ought to observe ; and as nobody makes a Bow before he takes off his Hat, it shall be the Subject of this present Chapter.

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The first Motion to take off the Hat.

THE Body being disposed according to the Rules beforementioned, if you would salute any one, the Arm must be raised to the Height of the Shoulder, as this first Figure (1) represents, having the Hand open(2); then bend the Elbow to take off the Hat, which makes a half Circle, according to these Words ; The Bend of the Elbow, which has its Point from the Elbow it self.

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The Second Figure of holding the Hat.

THE Elbow being bent, as you see by the second Figure, and the Hand open, as in the first Figure, it must be carried to the Head, which should not move ; then place the Thumb against the Forehead, and the Fingers on the Brim of the Hat cock'd up, and closing the Thumb and the four Fingers, hold it so ; then raising the Arm a little higher, it lifts the Hat off the Head at once, and extending itself, falls by the Side of the Body, which is call'd, The Fall of the Arm, as express'd by the Figure.

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The Mañer of holding ye Hat by the Side.

THIS third Figure represents the Manner of holding the Hat hanging down by the Side, the Crown downwards.

ALL these different Postures represented by these three Figures, are only to shew the Manner, and different Times that ought to be observed in this Action ; for it should not be understood by these different Postures, that there should be any Stop made at each Time, for that would be ridiculous. What I mean is, that there should be no Interval, and that these three Motions should be so imperceptible, that they should seem but as one single Action ; which I thought proper to distinguish by each principal Posture or Attitude, for the better Apprehension of them : Viz. to raise the Arm from the Side, bending the Elbow ; to carry it to the Head, and take hold of the Hat ; to lift it off, and let the Arm fall by the Side again.

AND to put it on again, the same Order is to be observed ; that is, to raise the Arm from the Side to the Height of the Shoulder, and bending the Elbow, put the Hat on the Head, pressing the cock'd Brim at the same Time with the Hand, to force it down in one Action, and not to clap the Hand on the Crown, which would be ungenteel; for the Head ought not to make any Motion to receive it, but the Hand and Arm should put it on : Neither ought the Hat to be press'd down too hard, by reason of the Difficulty there would be to take it off again ; its Use being only for an Ornament. One ought to observe also not to take it off formally, nor to advance the Arm and Hand too forwards, which would hide the Face ; nor even to stoop with the Head, and let the Hat carelesly fall over the Face, which would look very ill.

THE most graceful Manner of wearing it, in my Opinion, is this : To clap it first on the Forehead a little above the Eyebrows, and pressing the Cock moderately, force it down no farther behind than a just Proportion will admit ; the Fore-part to be lower a small Matter than the Back-part. The Button ought to be on the left Side, and the Corner or Point of the Hat over the left Eye, which disengages the Face : For to wear it quite back gives an aukward silly Air, and too much press'd down gives a melancholy or angry Look ; whereas the Manner of wearing it, as I have shewn, seems both decent, modest, and agreeable.