15 Dancing Tips From 1529 Proven to Wow Your Date

Huster at fr.wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-3.0
Huster at fr.wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-3.0

Antonius de Arena was a 16th-century soldier, judge, historian, poet, and dance theorist who wrote Leges Dansandi, or The Rules of Dancing. According to the journal Dance Research, the work is vital to understanding the evolution of dance: "The dance recipes and stylistic descriptions of basse dance [a popular 15th- and 16th-century court dance] in the Leges Dansandi contain important material for comparison with the extensive and more complex 15th-century repertoires preserved in treatises and dancemasters' manuals."

Fair enough. But beyond its elegant descriptions, the book is also full of surprisingly blunt advice about dance floor hygiene and etiquette. Just check out some of Arena's pointers.

1. Be honest: You're just there to pick up girls.

During the Renaissance, dance was a formal courtship ritual and a socially acceptable form of flirting. "To dance badly is a great disgrace ..." Arena said. "You who desire to caress the girls and kiss them long and sweetly, must learn the correct way to dance: a thousand joys flow from the dance."

2. Check your breath.

Contrary to the popular image of Renaissance people plagued by rotting teeth, the lack of sugar in people's diet meant that tooth decay was not common. Most people washed away any stink with a vinegar- or wine-based mixture of herbs and spices (like mint, cinnamon, and cloves). Arena recommends: “Do not eat either leeks or onions because they leave an unpleasant odor in the mouth.”

3. Close your mouth ...

"When you are dancing do not keep your mouth open; since the flies have a habit of flying about they could easily fly into your gaping mouth and choke you. Take care then, oh my gay friend!"

4. ... And remove your gloves.

Different dance etiquette guides have varying recommendations regarding gloves. Some recommend gloves to avoid wiping sweat all over the lady’s dress. Others, like Arena, suggest that removing the gloves is a sign of greater intimacy: "You must hold the damsel with ungloved hands when dancing; if you wear gloves you will very soon find yourself all alone."

5. Quit spitting.

In general, bodily fluids flowed a little more freely during the Renaissance. Spitting in public and at meals was relatively common—though most people recommended you hock those mealtime loogies under a table. Arena, however, advised otherwise: “[R]efrain from spitting before the maidens, because that makes one sick and even revolts the stomach.”

6. Wipe your nose ...

Snot, likewise, was never an appropriate fluid for public display. “Do not have a dripping nose and do not dribble at the mouth. No woman desires a man with rabies.”

7. ... But not with your hands!

“If you split or blow your nose or sneeze, remember to turn your head away after the spasm, and remember not to wipe your nose with your fingers: Do it properly with a white handkerchief.”

8. Double-check your groin's hardware.

In 1463, the parliament of Edward IV made it mandatory for a man to cover “his privy Members and Buttokes.” The codpiece soon became a fancy way to both cover—and flaunt—a man’s nether-regions. According to Arena, wardrobe malfunctions could be a bit, well, revealing: “You must always be garbed to perfection and your codpiece must be well-tied. We sometimes see codpieces slip to the ground during the basse dance, so you must tie them well.”

9. Mid-dance is not the time to tell her you might have head lice.

Head lice were universal in the 16th century. In fact, many hair combs served a purpose beyond cosmetic beauty and were primarily used as de-lousing tools. Arena would prefer it if you kept that a secret, though: "[K]eep your visage composed. Do not scratch your head in search of lice; surely you do not want to scratch yourself for black lice just then."

10. Get loose!

When it comes time to actually bust a move, "do not let your arms dangle too loosely or too stiffly when you are dancing. Some folk look as if they were without bones."

11. But not so loose that you fart.

Control is key. “Never fart when you are dancing: grit your teeth and compel your arse to hold back the fart.” (According to the 16th century writer Desiderius Erasmus, this was difficult advice to follow: People farted rather openly at the time, partly out of the belief that holding in gas could cause an illness. He advised people to “Hide the fart with a cough.”)

12. Don't dance too hard.

The galliard was a lively dance that involved athletic leaps, jumps, leg thrusts, and vigorous skipping. (It was basically a Renaissance dance-off.) But Arena wanted readers to tread carefully: "If you wish to do the gagliarda do not be too foolhardy, please, my good companion. Your very good mother no longer produces children; be, therefore, careful of your body."

13. Give her those old doe-eyes.

"Always gaze tenderly in your lady's face when you make the reverence at the end of the dance."

14. But stop doing that weird thing with your face.

"Some folk make a thousand grimaces, twisting up their mouths in an unbecoming way. Do not alter your natural countenance."

15. Seriously, do everything in your power to hold back that fart.

"[T]ake great care, my friend, not to break wind when you are dancing since if you do so you will be a real pig."

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The Hidden Meanings Behind 11 Common Tombstone Symbols

Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Walk through any cemetery in the world and you’ll find a solemn landscape that honors loved ones that have passed on. Accompanying the inscriptions of names, dates, and family crests are some common symbols that crop up repeatedly on tombstones. If you’ve ever wondered what they could mean, take a look at some of the explanations behind the graveyard graphics.

1. Eye

The eyes have it.Valerie Everett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you feel someone may be looking at you in the cemetery, you might be near a tombstone engraved with an eye. Often surrounded in a burst of sunlight or a triangle, an eye typically represents the all-seeing eye of God and could denote that the decedent was a Freemason.

2. Clasped Hands

Hands on a tombstone can mean several things.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing two hands clasped together can illustrate shaking hands or holding hands, depending on the position of the thumbs. A handshake can mean a greeting to eternal life. If clasped hands have different cuffs, it could indicate a bond between the deceased and a spouse or relative. If one hand is higher than the other, it could also mean that a person is being welcomed by a loved one or a higher power. The hand engraving grew into wide use during the Victorian era.

3. Dove

Doves appear in a variety of poses on tombstones.Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A dove usually symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit, but its specific meaning depends on how the bird is posed. If it’s flying upward, the soul is ascending to heaven. If it’s flying down, it represents the Holy Spirit arriving at the baptism of Jesus Christ. If it’s holding an olive branch in its mouth, it refers to an ancient Greek belief that olive branches could ward off evil spirits.

4. Broken Chain

Chains on tombstones can be linked or broken.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Medieval wisdom once held that a golden chain kept the soul in the body. In death, the chain is broken and the soul is freed. If the chain is unbroken and if it features the letters FLT (for Friendship, Love, and Truth), it probably means the deceased belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that seeks to promote charitable causes and offer aid.

5. Book

The meaning of a book on a tombstone isn't always easy to read.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Was the deceased an avid reader? Maybe, but not necessarily. An open book on a tombstone might refer to a sacred text like the Bible, the “book of life,” or the person’s willingness to learn. If you see a dog-earned corner on the right side, it could indicate the person’s life ended prematurely and before their “book” was finished.

6. Finger Pointing Up

An index finger pointing up can direct visitors to look up.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A hand with the index finger raised skyward is one of the more ambiguous symbols found in graveyards. It might be pointing to heaven, or indicate the fact that the decedent has risen from the land of the living.

7. Corn

Ears of corn could mean the deceased was a farmer.mike krzeszak, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A corn stalk on a tombstone means the deceased could have been a farmer; it used to be a custom to send corn instead of floral arrangements to a farmer’s family. It might represent other kinds of grain. Alternately, corn seeds can symbolize rebirth.

8. Scroll

Scrolls on a tombstone can refer to an unknown future.Kelly Teague, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A scroll engraved on a tombstone with both ends rolled up can indicate that part of life has already unfolded while the future is hidden.

9. Lamp

Lamps can mean a love of knowledge.Sean, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A lamp on a tombstone could speak to a love of learning or knowledge, or it might refer to how the spirit is immortal.

10. Camel

Camels aren't something you'd expect to see on a tombstone.Glen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While this particular camel signifies the Imperial Camel Corps that occupied desert regions during World War I, a camel can also represent a long journey or a skilled guide—in this case, for the afterlife.

11. Hourglass

An hourglass can be a message to the living.justiny8s, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As you may have guessed, the hourglass symbolizes the march of time. An hourglass on its end may mean the deceased died suddenly, while a winged hourglass communicates how quickly time flies. It may also be construed as a message to the living—time is short, so don’t waste it.