The social dances of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries consisted mainly of French court dances. Spread through the influence of King Louis XIV of France, the highly technical aristocratic dances reigned. The French Revolution, however, effectively extinguished all but the minuet when simpler dances took their place.
The social dances of the nineteenth century concentrated on pleasurable experience. While the minuet and other French court dances involved no more than the touching of the hands, the new couple dances allowed dancers to be in a close embrace. Participatory group dances were likewise revolutionary in that a person’s place or rank could change within the dance. Nationalistic dances that originated among peasants were tailored for a cosmopolitan audience in ballrooms throughout Europe and beyond.
Since much of standard piano repertoire was inspired by the social dances of the nineteenth century, we should discover what the composer wished to describe musically. Studying the history, musical style, and character of these dances will help to promote a greater understanding, appreciation, and interpretation of the music.
Music, piano, dance music
Sandra Yang and Connie Anderson
Williams, Alicia, "Enhanced by the Dance: A Guide to an Informed Interpretation of Piano Literature Inspired by Nineteenth-century Social Dances" (2019). B.A. in Music Senior Capstone Projects. 16.