The Dancing Master


The Dancing Master

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  Saturday 2 September – 21 January 2024

 Blackwell Hall, Weston Library

This display is now closed.

About this display

Playford’s Dancing Master was the first published collection of English country dances and their tunes, starting in 1651 and spanning 18 editions over 80 years. It spawned numerous imitations throughout the 18th century. This year is the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Playford.

The music and dances continue to be loved by millions across the world, not least due to their inclusion in film and television, such as Bridgerton, Pride and Prejudice and Poldark.

This display celebrates not only English country dancing but also the role of the Dancing Master during the 17th and 18th centuries, who would teach steps and choreograph new dances for court and assemblies.

A programme of events will accompany the display, including concerts, workshops for musicians and dancers, and a Playford Ball.


For a decade Matthew Coatsworth played in Boldwood, researching and producing three acclaimed Dancing Master books, as well as appearing on a number of recordings. He plays with The Warleggan Village Band, First Folio and with Steph West’s English Harp Project.

Playford’s Dancing Masters: learn English country dances

In our story, curator Matthew Coatsworth explains the origins of Playford's The Dancing Master, its great success and why it still matters today, and you can follow our videos to learn two English country dances from the book.

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