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Historical Context

My research focuses on the sociology of English Country Dancing, specifically in how music, fashion, nutrition and medicine (with some social graces and politics) would have affected the dancing done by the noble/esquire classes in England, circa 1651. Although that is technically outside of the mandated SCA period, it is when the book(s) 'The [English] Dancing Master' started being published by John Playford, or 'Johnny'/'Johnny P.' as casually referred to by some SCA dance masters. Recently, the Lovelace Manuscript has given us an earlier peek into what English Country Dancing may have looked like as early as 25 years before the publication of the first edition of The [English] Dancing Master. This manuscript includes several dances also published by Playford, as well as several 'new' ones.

My original research, 'Origins of Playford Dance', traced back several popular English Country Dances through literary references.

In short: On November 7, 1650, a man named John Playford registered The English Dancing Master: OR Plaine and easie Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances, with the Tune to each Dance. John was a stationer (publisher) in London and already known for his “political tracts, miscellaneous non-musical works, music theory, lessons for various instruments, collections of songs, and psalms.” (1)

On March 19, 1651, the book was “printed by Thomas Harper, to be sold by John Playford, at his shop at the Inner Temple neere the Church doore”. (2) Between 1651 and 1728, 18 editions of ‘The [English] Dancing Master’ were published. John Playford has been credited for publishing the first seven editions; his son, Henry Playford has been credited for publishing the next four, and John Young has been credited for publishing the final six. Between the 3 of them, they are credited for publishing over 6,000 dances – including variations, duplications, tunes, and songs.

Although it is understood that the dances that were published, in The [English] Dancing Master, are not necessarily the original dances, dances with the same name have been documented from within SCA period. Therefore, it can be concluded that the dances documented within SCA period evolved into the dances published in The [English] Dancing Master.

Dances that were traced back to 1603 (death of Elizabeth I) or before, include:

  • The Cushion Dance - which first appeared in The Dancing Master: Edition 7 (1686) - to 1603, where the dance is called for in Thomas Heywood's play, 'A Woman Killed with Kindness'.
  • Greensleeves - which first appeared in The Dancing Master: Edition 7 (1686) - to 1596, where the dance is railed against in Thomas Nashe's 'Have With You Saffron-Waldon'.
  • Sellenger's Round - which first appeared in The Dancing Master: Edition 3B (1663)- to Ireland in the 1530s. Apparently, it was the house dance at St. Ledger's palace in Ireland, where it was so popular that it was brought to England and danced there as well.

(Note: To be fair, Sellenger's Round may have appeared first in the 3A edition (1657), however I have yet to find a copy to verify that one way or the other.)

Talk to me sometime to hear about the others!


1998 - 2000 - Dance Master: Rusted Woodlands 2002 - 2004 - Co-Dance Master: Carillion (with THL Don Justinian Timagenes) 2002 - 2008 - Co-Dance Master: Iron Bog (with THL Don Justinian Timagenes) 2008 - 2009 - Dance Master: Fred (this was the nickname for the Canton within the Barony of Bhakail. The Dance Master of the Barony of Bhakail during this time - and for years before - was Dafydd Cyhoeddwr)


Currently, I dance at the Barony of Carolingia practice, which takes place at MIT, on Wednesday nights @7:30pm.


Terpsichore (award for grace and courtesy on the dance floor) Sable Compass (Baronial A&S award from the Barony of Iron Bog. Mine was for contributions to dance) Order of the Maunche (Kingdom A&S award. Mine was for contributions to dance)


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