(National Dances): Bohemian: the redowa. English: the hornpipe and lancers. French: the contredanse (country dance), cotillon, and quadrille. German: the gallopade and waltz. Irish: the jig. Neapolitan: the tarantella. Polish: the mazurka
and krakovieck, Russian: the cossac. Scotch: the reel. Spanish: the bolero and fandango. When Handel was asked to point out the peculiar taste of the different nations of Europe in dancing, he ascribed the minuet to the French, the saraband to the Spaniard, the arietta to the Italian, and the hornpipe and the morris-dance to the English.
Astronomical dances, invented by the Egyptians, designed (like our orreries) to represent the movements of the heavenly bodies.
The Bacchic' dances were of three sorts: grave (like our minuet), gay (like our gavotte), and mixed (like our minuet and gavotte combined).
The dance Champètre, invented by Pan, quick and lively. The dancers (in the open air) wore wreaths of oak and garlands of flowers.
Children's dances, in Lacedemonia, in honour of Diana. The children were nude; and their movements were grave, modest, and graceful.
Corybantic dances, in honour of Bacchus, accompanied with timbrels, fifes, flutes, and a tumultuous noise produced by the clashing of swords and spears against brazen bucklers.
Funereal dances, in Athens, slow, solemn dances in which the priests took part. The performers wore long white robes, and carried cypress slips in their hands.
Hymeneal dances were lively and joyous. The dancers being crowned with flowers. Of the Lapithæ, invented by Pirithöus. These were exhibited after some famous victory, and were designed to imitate the combats of the Centaurs and Lapithæ. These dances were both difficult and dangerous.
May-day dances at Rome. At daybreak lads and lasses went out to gather “May” and other flowers for themselves and their elders; and the day was spent in dances and festivities.
Military dances. The oldest of all dances, executed with swords, javelins, and bucklers. Said to be invented by Minerva to celebrate the victory of the gods over the Titans.
Nuptial dances. A Roman pantomimic performance resembling the dances of our harlequin and columbine. Sacred dances (among the Jews). David danced in certain religious processions (2 Sam. vi. 14). The people sang and danced before the golden calf (Exod. xxxii. 19). And in the book of Psalms (cl. 4) we read, “Let [the people] praise [the Lord] with timbrel and dance. Miriam, the sister of Moses, after the passage of the Red Sea, was followed by all the women with timbrels and dances” (Exod. xv. 20).
Salic dances, instituted by Numa Pompilius in honour of Mars. They were executed by twelve priests selected from the highest of the nobility, and the dances were performed in the temple while sacrifices were being made and hymns sung to the god.
The Dancing Dervishes celebrate their religious rites with dances, which consist chiefly of spinning round and round a little allotted space, not in couples, but each one alone.
In ancient times the Gauls, the Germans, the Spaniards, and the English too had their sacred dances. In fact, in all religious ceremonies the dance was an essential part of divine worship. In India dancing is a part of religious worship in which the priests join.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894