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The Fuller Brooch and Anglo-Saxon depictions of dance

  • Martha Bayless

Abstract

The scattered nature of references to dance and the ambiguity of its vocabulary have obscured Anglo-Saxon dance practices, but evidence suggests that dance was a significant cultural phenomenon. The earlier centuries of the Anglo-Saxon period saw the depiction of weapon dances, and later sources also allow us a glimpse of lively secular dance. Performance traditions may have included dance combined with satirical songs, as well as possible secular ritual dance. Finally, scripture provided examples of both holy dance and lascivious female dance. Contemporary iconography of these dance practices, combined with continued associations between dance and music, allow us to understand the conventions in the depiction of dance, and in turn these suggest that the figure of ‘Hearing’ on the Fuller Brooch, traditionally regarded as running, is in fact dancing.

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Anglo-Saxon England
  • ISSN: 0263-6751
  • EISSN: 1474-0532
  • URL: /core/journals/anglo-saxon-england
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