Grace and virtue: dance and politics in the work of John Locke, Adam Smith and John Weaver

This paper will trace historical and conceptual connections between the work of John Locke, Adam Smith and John Weaver. John Locke wrote on dance in his Some Thoughts concerning Education. Adam Smith wrote on dance in his Essays: Philosophical and Literary, and more specifically, in two essays called: Of the Nature of that Imitation which takes place in what are called the Imitative Arts and Of the Affinity between Music, Dancing and Poetry. In these sources they present an understanding of dance similar to the interpretation of dance in the work of John Weaver (1673-1760), termed as "the major figure in British dance before the present century” (Richard Ralph, The Life and Times of John Weaver, p. ix.). This paper will strive to expose and discuss the connections between Smith, Locke and Weaver's conceptualization of dance as an embodied system of communication, the relationship between its performativity and its educational virtue and the decline in its position since the ancient Polis. It will argue that all these theorists trace the loss of the communicative power that dance has to its emphasis on external disciplining.

Dana Mills
Symposium Title: 
Dancing in the theatre of Europe in the long 18th century 2012
Author affiliation: 
Department of Politics, University of Oxford