Captain James Cook: a culture of music and dance.
Captain Cook wisely thought that dancing was of special use to sailors. This famous navigator, wishing to counteract disease on board his vessels as much as possible, took particular care, in calm weather, to make his sailors and marines dance to the sound of a violin, and it was to this practice that he mainly ascribed the sound health which his crew enjoyed during voyages of several years continuance.
The Code of Terpsichore (1830) Carlo Blasis.
2020 will mark the 250th anniversary of the visit of James Cook to Australia. Commemorations are planned nationwide.
Scholars of history know that Cook took seriously the instructions from the Royal Society that the “shedding of the blood” [of Indigenous people]…”is a crime of the highest nature.”
During his lifetime Cook was renowned as a brilliant explorer; after his death he was elevated to the status of mythical hero, and in more recent times, he has been demonized for his treatment of Indigenous people and for introducing Western civilization into the Pacific. This series presents a hitherto uncharted facet of his life.
A fascinating aspect of Cook’s story concerns the culture of music and dance in which he was immersed, and which celebrated his discoveries and his death. Until now, this has not been examined.
Cook recognised the benefits of dance, using it to good effect as the leader of extensive voyages in the Pacific. Not only did he encourage his crew to dance for their good health, but he used music and dance in cultural exchanges as he visited new lands.
The voyages, people, and places Cook visited were portrayed in the popular culture of the day, and even his death was commemorated in dance.
Leading up to the anniversary, be sure to check these captivating stories as they become available. All the posts have a recording of the tune, and a CD will be available in late April.
Dance as cultural exchange
A Trip to Tahiti
Omai, the Tahitian celebrity
Omai, 0r, a trip round the world, a pantomime
A Lament for Cook
Dance Resources for Primary Teachers – available May 2020
Captain Cook’s Country Dance – book & CD – available April 2020
This resource was created on the lands of the Gubbi Gubbi people.
We pay our respects to their elders past and present.
1. Portrait of Captain Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland [Public domain] 2. A jig on board by Cruikshank. Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University
3. View of the South Seas by John Cleveley the Younger [Public domain]
The information on this website www.colonialdance.com.au may be copied for personal use only, and must be acknowledged as from this website. It may not be reproduced for publication without prior permission from Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke.