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The answer lies in the fact that when social dancing arose in the medieval period, the people were still living in communal living arrangements such as paupers without any social rules. Hence, social dances were used to create and maintain social status.
Historically it has been argued that the social dance was mainly a social function, or at least an opportunity to make a social impression; social dancing did not, and could not, have a sexual aspect. However, that doesn’t mean that it had no sexual component, as some sources suggest, but only that its sexual component was secondary. At the time of the birth of social dancing, it was regarded as a ‘manly’ and ‘masculine’ dance. This attitude is further reinforced by medieval sources such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in which the male characters are clearly portrayed as acting out socially a specific dance involving a male partner and his male bodyguard.
In addition, from the 14th century onwards it was possible for men to wear their ‘ladyly’ ‘dance’ attire in public places, the most famous example being in England during the early-eighteenth century. It is therefore surprising that the sexual aspect of social dancing was completely ignored by both the men and women, who enjoyed a social dancing in their homes and courtyards (see above).
In medieval society it was also possible for people to perform social dances in other locations, whether they were public or private and the dancers often used these locations in order to have even greater ‘fun’ with their partners.
Modern social dance [ edit ]
Modern social dancing is in fact an expression of modern-day dance popularity.
Modern dance and sex [ edit ]
One notable fact about contemporary dance culture is that it is mostly about sex in general. The idea of having a ‘social dance’ and other ‘sex’ related dances often being accepted by society is a fairly recent phenomenon; this notion is most evident amongst teenagers.
This is also in contrast to a number of ancient cultures which still promoted social dancing in a more intimate setting, such as in the Egyptian and Iranian cultures. In these cultures, social dances were often used as formative dances for both men and women. It is interesting to note, however, that the Egyptians were the first cultures to have considered social dancing for both sexes a legitimate way of socialising (hence all the sexual imagery