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Revolution on the Dance Floor

How Britain's dance floors were revolutionised in the 19th century as the slow, stately dances of an earlier era were replaced with faster, freer ones.

Len Goodman and Lucy Worsley reveal how Britain's dance floors were revolutionised in the 19th century, as the slow and stately dances of an earlier era were replaced with new dances that were faster, freer and a lot more fun.

The Industrial Revolution changed the way ordinary people danced, and at Queen Street Mill in Burnley, Len uncovers the fascinating story of how factory workers developed clog dancing to imitate the sounds and rhythms of the machinery they used. Lucy discovers how upper-class dancing tastes were transformed by the introduction of the waltz at the beginning of the 19th century, which allowed couples to dance scandalously close.

In the 19th century, a greater proportion of the population than ever before lived in cities, and Len visits one of London's most beautiful Victorian gin palaces to find out about the drinking and the dancing that went on at a typical working-class knees-up. Whilst the working classes were letting their hair down, the middle classes were enjoying the latest dance music in the comfort of their own homes thanks to the invention of the upright piano. Lucy tries her hand at the 19th century's favourite tune - the Blue Danube waltz - on the piano once played by the Brontë sisters.

At the Czech and Slovak Club in London, Len discovers the rustic roots of the 19th century's biggest dance craze - the polka. Together Len and Lucy take a series of polka classes with Darren Royston, historical dance teacher at RADA, as they prepare to dance it at a grand finale ball dressed in their full Victorian finery.

1 hour

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Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Len Goodman
Presenter Lucy Worsley
Production Company Silver River Productions
Executive Producer Emma Hindley
Series Producer Eleanor Scoones

Broadcasts

BBC Young Dancer 2015

A brand new BBC project for young ballet, contemporary, hip hop and South Asian dancers.