Although in the nature of things it is impossible to instruct the dancer how he may impart aesthetic significance to his physical movements, there are nevertheless certain general considerations to which his attention may profitably be directed. He can, for instance, turn his attention to Style, the cultivation of which will carry him a few steps at any rate along the right road. By style we do not mean polish, i.e., perfected physical movement, but rather the air, the manner with which physical movements are executed. It is partly individual, the expression - that is, voluntary or involuntary - of the dancer' personality, and partly derived from the character of the dance itself.
Although the personal factor is inherent in every human action, and can never, therefore, be entirely eliminated therefrom, it may be, and often is, suppressed to the point where it becomes unconscious, as in walking and other common activities and habits. Now the folk-dance, owing to its corporate, unconscious origin, is essentially an impersonal dance, a unique instrument for the expression of these ideas and emotions that are held and felt collectively, but peculiarly unfitted for the exploitation of personal idiosyncrasies. The folk dance, therefore, is emphatically not the place for the display of those self-conscious airs and graces, fanciful posings and so forth, that play so large a part in dances of a more conventional order.
The dancer must therefore put these aside and seek elsewhere for material upon which to mould his style, and this he will find in the character of the dance itself. He should note that the Country Dance is less strenuous, less stern, and less detached than the Morris; less involved and less intense than the Sword Dance; but freer, jollier, more intimate, and, in a sense, more human than either - perhaps because it is the only one of the three in which both sexes take part. It is a mannered dance, gentle and gracious, formal in a simple, straightforward way, but above all gay and sociable. The spirit of merriment, however, although never wholly absent from the dance, is not always equally obvious. There are certain dances that are comparatively quiet and subdued in style, in which the normal gaiety is toned down to a decorous suavity; while between dances of this kind and those of the more light-hearted variety, there are many that are emotionally intermediate in type. It should be the aim of the dancer to feel these temperamental differences, and reflect them in his manner and style.
The clue to these emotional variations he will, of course, find in the accompanying music. The dance is but the interpretation or translation, in terms of bodily action, of the music upon which it is woven, just as the melody of the song is primarily the expression of the text. Music moreover is the predominant partner of the union; there can be no dance without music. This intimate relationship between the music and the dance and, in a sense, the subservience of the latter to the former, must always be present to the mind of the dancer. Not only must his rhythyms accord with those of the music, as has previously been pointed out, but his style, the character that he gives to his movements, must also be in harmony with the character of the music.
The application of this principle, viz., the subordination of the dance to the music, is imperative, especially in the case of the dances in the present volume. For the Playford dances, despite the number and variety of their figures, are very persistent in type, and were it not for the wide range of the emotional content of the tunes it would be difficult to give to them the necessary variety of treatment.
It should be added that any spectacular qualities that the Country Dances may possess are fortuitous, or, rather the inevitable outcome of the perfect fashioning of means to end. Its beauty, being implicit, needs, therefore no artificial embellishment. An elaborate theatrical setting would be as irrelevant and impertinent as for the dancers to deck themselves in rich and fanciful costumes. All that the dancers need is plenty of space, an even, non-slippery floor and dresses which will allow to the body and limbs complete freedom of action.
Page transcribed by Hugh Stewart