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Francis Peacock: Sketches relative to the history and Theory, but more especially to the Practice of Dancing…… Aberdeen 1805

The Collection's Dance Entries · Changing fashions · Francis Peacock
The Ball-Room Guide · ‘A Guide to Fashionable Dancing’
‘The People’s Ball Room Guide’ · Illustrated Guide to the National Dances of Scotland
‘Highland Dancing in the Olden Times’ · Dance Video Clips


Francis Peacock (1723-1807), was 82 and had a wealth of dance experience when the ‘Sketches’ were published. He arrived in Aberdeen as a dancing master in 1744. ‘Sketches’ is a teaching manual, so it covers both ballroom and teaching etiquette, as well as dance steps and styles.
In JSS0405, Peacock displays his credentials as a dance teacher. The names Desnoyer, Glover and Lally would have been familiar to some readers as well-known dancers from the first part of the eighteenth century. In JSS0406 he shows that he believes dancing is important for young people as it helps to form grace and manners.

In Sketch V, (JSS0407-JSS0414), he discusses the dancing and dance steps of the Highlanders. Aberdeen was a lowland town and, to a Highlander, a visit there was like a visit to a foreign country.

Peacock refers to:

  • the Highlanders’ love of dancing the reel in groups of three or four (JSS0407)
  • the dance skills of young children (JSS0408).
  • The Gaelic names for the steps he observed:
  • kemshoole (ceum siubhail, JSS0410),
  • the minor, single and double kemkossy (ceum coisiche, JSS0411),
  • lematrast (leum tràsd, JSS0412), seby trast (siabadh tràsd) and aisig thrasd,
  • the ceum Badenach,
  • fosgladh
  • cuartag.
  • various methods of combining these steps. Many are similar to steps used today in dances such as ‘The First of August’.
  • the music of the Highlanders(JSS0409, JSS0410)

In Sketch VI (JSS0415-JSS0422) Peacock discusses dancing in general. He entreats dancers to:

  • plan carefully where to place themselves to best advantage and to keep their movements clear and graceful (JSS0416),
  • to be aware of what their partners may be doing
  • the importance of knowing and understanding the music
    In JSS0418-JSS0422, he discusses positions, steps and choreography.

In Sketch XI (JSS0423-JSS0425), Peacock includes hints for teachers on conduct and behaviour. In JSS0425 for example, he mentions the importance of dress: dancing masters should not wear ‘gaudy cloathes’.

Pat Ballantyne


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