It's not often that we get the opportunity to dance to live music, so we were delighted when we met up with local duo Blast from the Past at Kenilworth castle 22nd and 23rd June.
Built by Robert Dudley to impress the queen, Kenilworth Castle provided a spectacular venue for the lively and exciting dances from the Elizabethan era.
The queen was very fond of dancing and even into her fifties – a ripe old age for the time – she was known to have danced as many as seven Galliards each day. This is quite an achievement and says something about how fit "Good Queen Bess" must have been to have been able to undertake such an energetic and strenuous activity. These dances are vigorous – sometimes frenetic – and are demanding to perform, so when garbed in full regalia, complete with corsetry, a single Galliard was no mean feat.
The Galliard was a popular dance and members of the Elizabethan court competed fiercely for the queen’s attention, sometimes prompting bitter rivalries between courtiers – Robert Dudley was no exception.
These dances were difficult to learn and dancing masters were important members of numerous households across Europe, including England, France, Italy and Spain. These sixteenth century famous dancing masters include the Frenchman Thoinot Arbeau, (for whom we are named), and the Italian masters Casare Negri and Fabritio Caroso, and their instruction manuals were in wide circulation, describing in detail the steps, hops, leaps, jumps and other dance moves required for each dance. Even today, many of the dancing terminology in common usage have their origins in these European languages.
The international spread of these dances enabled us to offer a varied and exciting programme over the weekend and many visitors to the castle took the opportunity to join in the teaching sessions at the end of each set.