The art of being ‘natural’ in Francis Peacock’s Sketches (1805)
The paper focuses on the concept of ‘natural’ as used in one of the most influential works on dancing in Scotland – Sketches relative to the history and theory, but more especially to the practice of dancing… intended as hints to the young teachers of the art of dancing. Published in 1805, the treatise was a result of a long and prolific career of an Aberdonian dancing master Francis Peacock (1723-1807). It remains a must-read for anyone interested in traditions of dancing in Scotland.
The paper presents a semiotic analysis of Peacock’s emphasis on the ‘natural’ as both an initial condition of a dance student and a desired outcome of teaching to dance. Building on John Locke’s philosophy, Peacock’s use of the concept remains valid for some forms of Scottish dancing to this day. Analysing the cultural, choreographic and somatic implications of dancing ‘naturally’ in various contexts is therefore vital for clearer understanding of how Scottish dancing can be evolving as a globalised phenomenon in the 21st century. It can also help re-contextualise one of the core values of several European dance traditions, such as classical ballet, as deeply rooted in the philosophy of the Enlightenment.
Sergey Alferov is a dance teacher and co-founder of Shady Glen Scottish Dance School (Moscow, Russia). He is Fellow of the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing and Kindred Arts (UKA) and author of the UKA Scottish (Ladies’) Step Dance Syllabus (2011, 2012). His published research is on patterns of identity thinking in various semiotic systems (advertising, dance) as well as on typological parallels between Christian spirituality and Scottish dance as a form. In order to promote some of the less widespread styles of Scottish dancing worldwide, Sergey runs an online dance video tutorial, www.youtube.com/c/ScotStep. Apart from dancing, he also teaches English as a foreign language in Moscow.