The Dancing Master

A widely popular book published repeatedly during the 17th Century was John Playford’s wonderfully charming The Dancing Master, a collection of dances set to tunes which people could learn at home. In its introduction the author states:

The Art of Dancing is a commendable and rare Quality fit for young Gentlemen, if opportunely and civilly used. And Plato, that Famous Philosopher thought it meet that young ingenious Children be Taught to Dance’. And he cites ‘The Gentlemen of the Inns of Court, whose sweet and airy Activity has crowned their Grand Solemnities with admiration to all Spectators.

Dances in Playford’s book include – Step Stately, What You Please, Thomas You Cannot, Huddle-Duddle, Put On Thy Smock on Monday, Oranges and Limons, Gossips Frolick, and the wonderfully entitled Jog on my Honey.

Below are some images from the book, which give instructions on how to perform each dance.








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  • Anonymous
    March 15, 2010 - 11:35 am | Permalink

    A bit of dancing makes people happier. What a shame most people don’t do it anymore.


  • March 13, 2010 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    It’s a lovely book – reprinted quite a few times in the 17th C. My sense is it pre-dates the Grand Tour. In spite of Coryat’s travels in 1608, large-scale continental touring didn’t really become popular for another 50 years or so. But you make a good point, its availability would mean it could be utilised by those who wished to teach their sons the art of dancing without the expense of a dancing master, although I suspect the rustic nature of many of the dances may have been regarded as a little crude for the truly posh. It’s available to download on EBBO

  • March 13, 2010 - 1:45 am | Permalink

    ooohhh I love this book. Where did you find it?

    Upper class blokes who went on their Grand Tour, always stopped in Paris en route. During their weeks in Paris, they had to
    1] be completely outfitted in decent French clothes
    2] learn fencing
    3] improve their French AND
    4] learning dancing, from a professional instructor.

    This book must have been going for a different market. People who could never afford to send their sons to France and Italy, yet still wanted the social graces. You mentioned for example ‘The Gentlemen of the Inns of Court’.

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