Dancing Cheek To Cheek: An Intimate History Of Dance

Confirmed for BBC Four on 17 November at 9.00pm to 10.00pm

Ep 1/3

Monday 17 November



Lucy Worsley and Len Goodman take to the floor to reveal the untold story of British Dance. Over three episodes, they’ll show how Britain’s favourite popular dances from over the centuries offer a fascinating window into British society and our relationships with one another.

Each week, Lucy and Len will research and investigate a number of historic dances, then train alongside a group of amateur dancers to recreate an iconic dance finale in full costume in a historic location. Tracking the story of popular dance from the 17th Century to just before WW II, Len and Lucy will demonstrate how dance has always been about far more than just mastering the moves and feeling the rhythm. It’s about sex and seduction, power and politics, etiquette, economics, and of course, romance.

In the first episode, Len and Lucy explore how dancing went from being frowned upon as dangerous and debauched in the 17th century to being celebrated as an essential social skill in the 18th century. The pair begin by joining a group of performing arts students on Ickwell village green to learn the cushion dance, a 17th century favourite with a rather raunchy reputation.

Len uncovers the long history of English country dancing at Middle Temple Hall, where he meets a group of young barristers trying their hand at a dance that might have been performed there by their 17th century equivalents. Meanwhile Lucy reveals how the dance mad French King Louis XIV set the fashions followed on this side of the channel as she learns a Baroque court dance designed to express her deepest emotions.

By the 18th century dancing had lost its dubious reputation and Lucy visits the York Assembly Rooms to find out how this new Georgian institution opened up the dance floor to more people than ever before. Business was now booming for dancing masters and Len studies a rare dance manual at the Bodleian Library in Oxford to discover what they taught their pupils.

The minuet was the 18th century’s answer to Strictly Come Dancing as couples performed before a crowd of critical onlookers and Len and Lucy will learn this fiendishly difficult dance for a grand finale at their own Georgian ball at Syon Park. The pair dress in full period costume as Lucy discovers that her 18th century dress is ingeniously engineered to enforce the perfect posture demanded by the minuet and Len masters the art of dancing in heels and a wig.