The Musician and the Dance: The Musical Interpretation of the Dance Using Playford's 'The Dancing Master'

Many of today's music students are not taught how to play for dancers and their set routines. Likewise, many modern choreographers will create dances to the music that they are given. In English country dancing, and other set dances of the eighteenth century, this is the exact opposite; many melodies can be used for the same dance. So how does the modern musician cope and behave like an early modern musician? The social nature of English country dancing meant that anybody could learn; including the musicians. This meant that the musician not only had the melodies memorised (many could not read music) but also the dance steps as well. By analysing the dance steps in Playford, and the measures in which they were performed, it is possible to create a new transcription of the music using modern musical notation and performance directions. This will aid the modern musician to successfully create musical effects within English country dancing to aid the dancer and musician towards maximum synchronicity. 

Natalie D. Kershaw
Author affiliation
NDK Music Services