Just over two years ago, I wrote a post here about Richard Powers’s amazing page of downloadable historical dance sources, wondering how I could have missed such a vast, terrific, and frankly indispensable website. I’ve now discovered yet another, even larger resource—as it happens, maintained by former students of Powers—that is continuing to blow my mind as I explore it.
The Library of Dance is just that—an enormous online library of materials for social dance, instructions, manuals, videos, music. For me, and probably for other musicians, the big attraction is the Vintage Dance Manuals page, maintained by Nick Enge, since the out of copyright sources often include music notation as well, and there are currently over 1800 downloadable sources—a source being an entire book. Although the title says “Vintage,” in fact, it’s a bibliography of manuals from the 15th century to the present day.
At the time of writing this post, there are over 6,100 sources cited, 3,351 of them indexed: “indexed” means that they have provided an index of all the dances included in a particular manual, with hyperlinks to subpages in some cases. For example, under Arbeau’s Orchésographie you’ll find not just indexes to different editions, but subpages that give renderings of the dance instructions and most usefully, an embedded link to a Spotify track that is particularly suitable for dancing. That alone makes the site invaluable. Just one example: see the Branle Pinagay from Orchésographie page.
It’s not just the sheer quantity of materials that’s available here, it’s the loving attention to detail and comprehensiveness— you’ll indexes of the many editions of Playford, and if there is more than one online source or format for a download, they’ll provide the relevant links.
The Library of Dance, free to all, is a wonderful example of what the web can be at it’s very best. Thank you, Melissa and Nick Enge!