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date: 29 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Whereas much of the dancing of the early modern period emphasized the cohesion or “harmoniousness” of the group, competitive dancing allowed participants to distinguish themselves as individuals. In formal, staged competitions and in informal dance-offs, dancing highlighted individuals’ grace and skill. In addition, masterful dancing implied excellence more broadly: for men, impressive athletic displays on the dance floor also suggested virility and sexual prowess. This chapter examines two groups of complementary sources for early modern competitive dancing: didactic manuals that provide detailed instructions for dances like the galliard and games like “Kick the Tassel,” and literary works that stage or describe competitive dancing, with particular attention to Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, and Philip Massinger’s The Old Law, William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, William Kemp’s Nine Daies Wonder, and an anonymous song from the “Blundell Family Hodgepodge Book.”

Keywords: dance, Shakespeare, staging, competition, gender, masculinity, early modern

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