William Hogarth explicitly positioned his aesthetic theory in opposition to those of his contemporaries.
He disagreed both with philosophical treatments that viewed beauty and taste in moral terms and with art treatises that relied on exemplification and lacked causal explanation; further, he attacked the mystification of the concept of grace in both approaches.
He argued that understanding beauty did not require initiation into a new body of knowledge: It simply involved exercising a natural reflective vision that finds pleasure in the forms of the human body and related designs and ornamentations.
It was natural, therefore, that—unlike other aestheticians of his time—he drew extensively on dance examples in his treatise The analysis of beauty: Dance, particularly in its use in deportment training, belonged to a sphere of relatively everyday polite culture, as opposed to the rarefied and mystifying culture of art appreciation. Anyone open to dance and deportment could learn how to appreciate them, just as anyone open to Hogarth’s theory could apply its illuminations to their everyday lives.
The 1623 printing of François de Lauze’s Apologie de la danse et la parfaicte méthode de l’enseigner tant aux cavaliers qu’aux dames was not motivated solely by artistic concerns.
Some of the introductory materials—a letter to the author’s patron the Duke of Buckingham (George Villiers, 1592–1628), three curiously attributed dedicatory poems, and a mythologically inspired frontispiece (above)—appear to contain coded messages referring to the political and amatory activities of Buckingham and others; they may even have been tools of espionage.
This according to “Deciphering de Lauze” by Martha Schwieters (Proceedings: Society of Dance History Scholars [Riverside: Society of Dance History Scholars, 1999] pp. 69–78; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1999-35200).
Below, a gavotte of the type described by de Lauze.
More articles about early dance treatises are here.
Gottfried Taubert’s Rechtschaffener Tanztmeister, oder Gründliche Erklärung der frantzösischen Tantz-Kunst (Leipzig: Erben, 1717) is an encyclopedic—even cosmological—work on early eighteenth-century dance, and the minuet is at the center of its universe.
Providing what is probably the most complete and accurate description of the dance of all time, Taubert discusses the minuet step, its cadence, its principal and collateral figures, the giving of hands, and the cavalier’s conduct of his hat, ending with a full description—both in words and in five notated choreographic figures—of a complete minuet ordinaire. Throughout, his information is based on French authority and follows the central French tradition; it is not a provincial German account.
This according to “The minuet according to Taubert” by Tilden A. Russell (Dance research XXIV/2 [winter 2006] pp. 138–162). Below, a brief demonstration that includes the cavalier’s conduct of his hat.
The jurist Antonius deArena (fl. ca. 1520–50) wrote several lengthy poems, including Ad suos compagnones studiantes qui sunt de persona friantes bassas danzas de nova bragarditer, translated as “Rules of dancing” by John Guthrie and Marino Zorzi (Dance research: The journal of the Society for Dance Research, vol. 4, no. 1 [autumn 1986], pp. 3–53). This treatise describes the basse danse and other French social dances of the period in considerable detail, interspersing the technical information with colorful and humorous advice regarding etiquette and deportment.
“I exhort you all to learn the dances in which you may bestow prolonged kisses” he suggests, “there is no employment more delightful for you, nor for me.” He further admonishes “never doze during the ball, please, my good companion; sleeping during the dance is like denying God.”
Finally, he counsels “afterwards remember to give drinks to everyone and then the genial wine, my friend, will assume its sway, since Ovid sings that the poor wretch becomes a cuckold as soon as the wine flows at the banquets.”
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