What was included in Playford’s Dancing Masters?
The Dancing Masters included the titles, music and dance instructions for each dance published. It is unlikely that Playford wrote any of the melodies or dances himself. Instead he collected popular dances of the time.
The English country dances included in the book range in age. Mundesse – a round dance – may be the oldest. It is almost certainly derived from a dance from 1551, one hundred years before it was published here.
Other dances had royal connections: Halfe Hannikin was a country dance that had been performed by the future king Charles I in 1623 in front of his court in a ball called a masque.
The English Civil War concluded the same year as the first book was published – 1651.
Some of the published dances and music reflect this change. The ballad Faine I would if I could, also known as The King’s Complaint, appears here after Oliver Cromwell’s parliament tried to suppress it. The dance also had royal connections, having been performed in front of Charles I during the court’s time in Oxford.
Later editions from The Dancing Master continued to include older dances matched with newer tunes taken from popular ballads such as Jamaica, which may be best known to current audiences as the theme tune to the BBC television series Upstart Crow.
The approach taken in Bridgerton, using contemporary pop songs as the soundtrack to the dances, is therefore following in the footsteps of Playford’s Dancing Masters.
Whereas the first edition in 1651 featured more circle dances, by the start of the 18th century, longways dances such as The Indian Queen were more typical.
Try dancing The Indian Queen yourself at The Playford Ball