Dance Quotes

A selection of my favourite quotations about dancing.

Literary Quotations

A selection of quotations about dance taken from literature:


Can't act, can't sing, slightly bald. Can dance a little.

Hollywood executive on Fred Astaire's first screen test.

Thoinot Arbeau (Dancing Master)

And there is more to it than this, for dancing is practised to reveal whether lovers are in good health and sound of limb, after which they are permitted to kiss their mistresses in order that they may touch and savour one another, thus to ascertain if they are shapely or emit an unpleasant odour as of bad meat. Therefore, from this standpoint, quite apart from the many other advantages to be derived from dancing, it becomes essential in a well ordered society.

Orchesography (1589), trans. Mary Stewart Evans 

W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973)

The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The second-best is a formal order,
The dance's pattern; dance while you can.
Dance, dance, for the figure is easy,
The tune is catching and will not stop;
Dance till the stars come down from the rafters;
Dance, dance, dance till you drop.

Death's Echo 

Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) (British Composer)

One should try everything once, except incest and folk dancing.

Farewell to My Youth 

Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)

A dance is a measured pace, as a verse is a measured speech.

The Bible

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down,
and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn,
and a time to dance;


Ambrose Bierce

Dance, v.i. To leap about to the sound of tittering music, preferably with arms about your neighbour's wife or daughter. There are many kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously innocent, and warmly loved by the vicious.

The Devil's Dictionary 

Nicholas Breton

And then you know, the youth must needs go dance,
First galliards -- then larousse, and heidegy --
Old Lusty Gallant -- All the flowers of the Broom.
And then a hall, for dancers must have room...
And to it then: with set, and turn about,
Change sides, and cross, and mince it like a hawk;
Backwards and forwards, take hands then, in and out;
And, now and then, a little wholesome talk,
That none could here, close rowned in the ear.'


Works of a Young Wit, II, ii. 15-23. (1577) 

Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

There's threesome reels, and foursome reels,
There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man;
But the ae best dance e'er cam to our lan',
Was - the De'il's awa' wi' the Exciseman

The De'il's awa' wi' the Exciseman 

Lord Byron [George Gordon] (1788 - 1824)

On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet.

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 

Lewis Carroll [Charles Dodgson] (1832 - 1898)

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?

Alice in Wonderland 

Sir Noel Coward (1899-1973)

Dance, dance, dance little lady.

Title of a song. 

Dr Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)

They teach the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master.

Boswell's life of Johnson (referring to Lord Chesterfield's letters) 

Tom Lehrer

I should like to consider the folk song and expound briefly on a theory that I have held for some time: to the effect that the reason the folk songs are so atrocious is that they were written by the people!

From the recording An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer 

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns,
Shall with their goat-feet dance an antic hay.

Edward II 

Samuel Pepys

"This day I bought the book of country dances against my wife's woman Gosnell comes, who dances finely; and there, meeting Mr. Playford...."

Pepys Diary, November 22nd 1662. 

John Playford (1623 - 1686)

To the Ingenious Reader
The Art of Dancing called by the Ancient Greeks Orchestice, and Orchestis, is a commendable and rare Quality fit for yong Gentlemen, if opportunely and civilly used. And Plato, that Famous Philosopher thought it meet, that yong Ingenious Children be taught to dance. It is a quality that has been formerly honoured in the Courts of Princes, when performed by the most Noble Heroes of the Times! The Gentlemen of the Innes of Court, whose sweet and ayry Activity has crowned their Grand Solemnities with Admiration to all Spectators. This Art has been Anciently handled by Athenaeus, Julius Pollux, Coelius Rhodiginus and others, and much commend it to be Excellent for Recreation, after more serious Studies, making the body active and strong, gracefull in deportment, and a quality very much beseeming a Gentleman. Yet all this should not have been an Incitement to me for Publication of this Worke (knowing these Times and the Nature of it do not agree) But that there was a false and surrepticious Copy at the Printing Presse, which if it had been published, would have been a disparagement to the quality and the Professors thereof, and a hinderance to the Learner: Therefore for prevention of all which, having an excellent Copy by me, and the assistance of a knowing Friend; I have ventured to put forth this ensuing Worke to the view, and gentle censure of all ingenious Gentlemen lovers of this Quallity; not doubting but their goodness will pardon what may be amiss, and accept of the honest Intention of him that is a faithfull honourer of your Virtues, and
Your servant to command
John Playford

Dedication to the first edition of The English Dancing Master (1651) 

Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744)

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

The Dunciad

Not to go back, is somewhat to advance,
And men must walk at least before they dance.

Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972)

Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance;... poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.

ABC of Reading 

William Prynne (1600 - 1669)

Dancing is for the most part attended with many amorous smiles, wanton compliments, unchaste kisses, scurrilous songs and sonnets, effeminate music, lust-provoking attire, ridiculous love pranks, all of which savour only of sensuality, of raging fleshly lusts. Therefore it is wholly to be abandoned of all good Christians. Dancing serves no necessary use, no profitable, laudable or pious end at all. It is used only from the inbred pravity, vanity, wantoness, incontinency, pride, profaneness or madness of men's depraved natures. Therefore it must needs be unlawful unto Christians. The way to Heaven is too steep, too narrow for men to dance in and keep revel rout. No way is large or smooth enough for capering roisters, for jumping, skipping, dancing dames but that broad, beaten, pleas ant road that leads to Hell. The gate of Heaven is too narrow for whole rounds, whole troupes of dancers to march in together.

Histriomastix (1632)

" never 'went as yet by multitudes, much less by morricedancing troopes, to heaven."

Histriomastix (1632) 

George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

On dancing:

A perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.

quoted in the New Statesman, March 1962 

R. S. Surtees (1803 - 1864)

These sort of boobies think that people come to balls to do nothing but dance; whereas everyone knows that the real business of a ball is either to look out for a wife, to look after a wife, or to look after somebody else's wife.

W. B. Yeates (1865 - 1939)

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Among School Children 

Callers' remarks

As a caller myself I tend to pay fairly close attention to what callers actually say. Sometimes we come out with the most outrageous things by pure accident, other times as a result of careful planing. Here are some of my favourites. 

Gordon Potts

Sh! Listen! 'Cause this place has got acoustics like, like, like a swimming pool!

whilst calling the Aqueilidh at Chippenham Festival 1993

Please don't splash me: this isn't my radio mike..... On the other hand, this isn't my radio mike!

whilst calling the Aqueilidh at Chippenham Festival 1993 

This page last modified Tue Apr 2 1996 10:53:01

Rhod Davies

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