Sunday, 2 January 2011

Take your partners .....

Never having been a dancer in any sense of the word, being asked to write a piece on the etymology of dance names initially left me scratching my head. The telephone call came about following the success of a certain BBC dancing competition in its early years, a reality show I admit I had never seen (and still have not), while my knowledge of dance terminology starts and ends with 'step'.
Of course some terms are obvious, for example barndance is still clearly a dance genre developed at a time when the barn was probably the only building large enough to hold the dance. Other names and associated terminology follows in alphabetical order:

arabesque - as the name suggests 'in the Arabic style' from Italian arabesco.

bebop - from the musical style, itself imitative of its two-beat time.

beguine - a name of French origin understood as 'flirtation'.

bolero - a Spanish term bola meaning 'ball'.

bossa nova - is Portuguese for 'new voice'.

charleston - a dance named after Charleston in South Carolina.

cotillion - a formal dance which is named from the Old French for 'petticoat'.

flamenco - named from the Spanish for 'native of Flanders'.

foxtrot - the succession of slow and quick steps is said to resemble the start/start movements of the ubiquitous mammal.

galliard - is an Old French word meaning 'strength, power', possibly named for its gusto when compared with contemporary sixteenth and seventeenth century dances.

gavotte - named from the Gavot inhabitants of the Alps where the dance originated, itself meaning 'mountaineer'.

landler - is an Austrian dance which originated in the region of Landl, the name being the Anglicised version of the place.

mambo - a name which was taken from Haitian Creole for a voodoo priestess, which seems to be a simple loan word and has no connection with dance.

mazurka - this Polish dance takes its name from the French form of mazurek, a native or inhabitant of Mazovia province.

minuet - an Old French menuet meaning 'small, dainty'.

morris - an English country dance which has its origins in Middle English Moreys 'Moorish' and telling of its origins in North Africa and/or Spain.

one-step - describes the nature of the dance.

paso doble - as with the previous name describes the 'two step' this time in Spanish.

paul jones - from John Paul Jones, a Scots-born US naval hero who died in Paris!

pirouette - to spin on the ball of the foot in ballet, this comes from French pirouet 'a spinning top'.

polka - comes from Czech pulka means 'half step' and describes the skip following the three steps of the dance.

polonaise - is a French word from Medieval Latin Polonia, meaning Poland.

quadrille - is a dance for a minimum of four people and comes from Latin quadra or Spanish cuadra 'square'.

quickstep - is the perfect description of the fast-paced ballroom dance.

rigadoon - is a lively dance said to have been devised by and named after one Monsieur Rigaud, a dancing master from Marseille.

rumba - is a ballroom dance originating among the black culture of Cuba. This is either American Spanish rumbo 'carousel' or European Spanish rumbo 'pomp'.

saltarello - from the Latin saltare 'to leap'.

strathspey - is a lively Scottish reel named after the place name meaning 'the valley of the Spey'.

tango - logically the name is derived from the same place as the dance, a Spanish pronunciation of an Afro-American drum dance brought from somewhere in the Niger-Congo vicinity.

tarantella - a lively whirling dance from southern Italy which was devised as a remedy for tarantism. This condition, so rife in southern Italy from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries it was considered an epidemic, was thought to be a result of a bite from the tarantula, itself characterised by an uncontrollable urge to dance. Hence this is a dance created to alleviate an uncontrollable urge to dance!

turkey trot - the springing walk and up and down shoulder movement is said to be imitative of the turkey.

volta - a dance named from the Italian 'to turn'.

waltz - a Germanic word which can be traced to Middle High German walzen and Old High German walzan both meaning 'to roll'.

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