The historical dances performed at the European courts in former days are almost forgotten. However, there is an enthusiastic club in Groningen, The Netherlands, which is engaged in the preservation of this old dance-culture. Historical Dance Group Plaisir Courtois consists of a group of young people who practise historical dances from different periods: Renaissance, Baroque and Viennese period (19th century).
During performances Plaisir Courtois tries to reflect the atmosphere of the period concerned as accurately as possible. Not just by performing the dances itself in an authentic style, but also through costumes and accompanying etiquette. The costumes are being home made according to original patterns and designs.
In those days dancing was an important part of the education. Fencing, horse-riding and dancing were considered activities through which a good posture was obtained. The dance-floor was also one of the places where boys and girls of the nobility could meet eachother.
The oldest known dances from Western-Europe date from the 11th and 12th century. These were simple and informal dances, performed in a circle or a long line. Sometimes one couple would break away to dance something in front of the others. That was the start of the solo dance.
Later on in the Middle Ages dances are becoming part of the court etiquette. The dances got more complicated and therefore fixed rules were made for steps and sequences. The Basse danse and the branles date from this time.
In the Renaissance there were already dancing-masters who wrote down their dances, especially in Italy and France.
These were mainly dances for one couple that required a good dancing-technique. Characteristic of these Italian dances are the exactly measured out steps and courses and the refined movements.
In the 17th century the dances got more and more complicated and dancing-lessons became an important part of the education. This development reached a height under Louis XIV. The minuet came into existence and remained the most important dance at the court for almost 100 years.
Eventually the technique got so difficult that professionals were being hired. The ballet was born. As counter-balance the English Countrydances became very popular at less formal occasions.
Together with the French nobility the dances disappeared after the French Revolution (1789). The dances that were danced at balls after that didn't have much in common with their high quality predecessors. They were simple round games to music.
The era of the solo dance was over, the court dance became ball-dance and the social aspect predominated.
Dances from Poland and the Balkan were being introduced, but this was mostly the era of the waltz with a dance-hold that was revolutionary for those days. The waltz continued to dominate the ball-rooms until World War I made the last court dances history.
Historical Dance Group Plaisir Courtois
9700 CB Groningen
Telephone: +31 50 3136586