The truth is more complex, given the evolution of social dance. While it is widely accepted that the earliest forms of social dances—that is, dance movements based on rhythmic movement—applied to both women and men, the term “social dance” was applied a century later to a variety of forms of male-female dance.
The first social dance used to describe a specific form of male to female dancing was known as “dancing boys,” which could be identified by its pattern of “spokes” (as is the case for a male to female dance that has three “graphed lines” and a line on each of its four sides). While this may have meant male dancers were identified by the “spokes” on their bodies, the name of the dance eventually encompassed the whole male dance.
Although dance movements were used throughout the 16th and 17th century, the “dancing boy” form of dance originated in the 1520s. The dancing boy’s dance movement featured the following rhythm:
A circle of men with their arms crossed, or with their right hands in their left pockets
A woman with her left hand clasped in front of her chest, while the other hand was held down to protect her breasts
A man and a woman, separated by a line of dancing boys
A girl with her back to the action
The “dancing boy” dancing was performed mainly in groups while seated and while “staring” at a large woman. The girls and women were not allowed to attend, though in some cases their presence was required. The reason for this was likely that this group formation helped break the ice and build rapport: a dance with women in groups was likely to become too chaotic and dangerous for those within it.
Female group dancing in dance groups can be very dangerous and can result in injuries. The female dancers are not only more sensitive and vulnerable to injury, but are also more likely to be attacked by other dancers, even though the female dancers are not directly involved. The women’s dance is a form of protection and to prevent the attack of another dancer, there must be a “protecting” person on each side of the dance.
The dance was initially a form of protection, because in a male-female dyad or two men dancing together as a group is a great deal less dangerous than in larger solo groups. The dancing in groups may also have had the effect of teaching the participants how to be vulnerable and to
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