Discover how history can be traced through dance.

Take a fascinating journey to see history in an unique light – through the pastime which gave joy to our ancestors and invigorated their lives, from a time when dancing was a prime social activity.

Our history can be brought to life in a unique way by experiencing music and dance – a living link to our heritage.


Our main focus is the culture of dance associated with the European exploration and settlement up to 1900. We cover the era of early exploration, including William Dampier and James Cook – both venerated by dance compositions; and then trace the early settlement from 1788, delving into both convict and elite dance.  Into the nineteenth century, we follow the way dancing was vital for community celebrations, as well as playing an important role in  everyday life.

First Nations

The First Nations people have a rich and diverse culture extending for many thousands of years – considered to be the oldest continuous culture in the world.  In this unbroken cultural legacy, dance has always played an important role, helping to tell the stories of the past and the present, and continuing strong into the future.  The historical records of their dances available to us come from the European perspective, and thus were often highly biased. It is with some trepidation that we venture into this subject, not wishing to perpetuate the harmful attitudes of the past. We understand that protecting this cultural heritage is vitally important and we hope some of the resources presented here may help in this regard.


The original aim of the website was to present dances of the settlement from 1788 to 1840. Very little was known about this period, and our research has greatly expanded the field, however, we now seek to extend beyond these dates to embrace a broader history.  We include the fashionable dances, the folk traditions, and of special interest are the step dances (solo hornpipes, jigs, reels) which were extremely popular in Australia throughout the nineteenth century.

What’s in a dance?

About the author

Statement of significance

Heather, the importance of what you are doing can scarcely be quantified. What a jewel for coming generations, and what unique insights into Australia’s spectacular history! May you and your Team be guided every step of the way!
Denise, Director of Studies at School of Dance Therapy.  UK

Bringing history to life!

In Brisbane, we hold regular Community Folk Dances which include a variety of English, Scottish, Irish, Manx, Colonial and Bush dances, both modern and traditional. Additionally, the older dances that are part of our heritage – Medieval and Shakespearean dance – are included in our repertoire and performances.

In the modern age of intense electronic social networking, these dances shine as genuine, warm, social pleasures.  Words are unnecessary while dancing; other skills are required – a smile, a glance, a touch.  Could it be more different to social media on your smart phone?
In an evening of country dance one may have a dozen partners and dance with every person in the room; a group of individuals synchronised in the pattern of the dance.

Dance rates as one of the most beneficial forms of recreation:  it involves so many different aspects in such an enjoyable way.  The exercise of moving through the dance, remembering the figures, listening and responding to the music, and above all, the myriad of friendly  interactions.

All this and more, we aspire to deliver at Australian Historical Dance!

The information on this website 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.


Acknowledgement of Country.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Country on which we live and work, and pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the impact colonialism has had on Aboriginal Country and Aboriginal peoples and that this impact continues to be felt today.

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