Dancing in Time by Robert Hylton – Review

Dancing in Time by Robert Hylton Review logo

By Sandra Callard

This unique book takes a startling look at the huge amount and variety of dancing throughout time. Dancing has always been with us in some form or another and for that very reason it has to be vitally important. The various steps, and the changes in dance over the years is an ongoing and ever-changing activity and Dancing in Time is a fascinating read to the dancer, but also gives a brilliant hour of entertainment as you skim through the glorious pictures which saturate every page.

Everybody has danced at some time in their lives, and the joy it can give, for absolutely nothing, is remarkable, and this book digs into the reasons why we dance, and shows the joys of the sheer unadulterated action of the dedicated dancer.

The book contains pictures galore of the dancers of old, some of which are laughable, some are joyful and some are quite simply crazy, but the variety of movement that is shown, in incredible detail, is simply stunning. The well known ones, such as the Tango, the Waltz or the Jive, are seen in another light as the author explains how they came about initially, but are eventually replaced as some dances lose their popularity and others take their place.


Dancing in Time by Robert Hylton Review coverDance is a never ending array of movement, and just a small change of the body can alter the appearance of a dance altogether. We see fashions and movements from times gone by, but the joy and the ability of the dancers is always shining through, whatever the era that is represented.

As dancing progresses over the years, there will always be the protestors who think certain movements are in bad taste, but they never seem to make any progress in their objections. It is unbelievable now to know that the beautiful dancing of the Waltz was massively objected to, simply because the man had to hold his partner’s waist in public. Even as late as 1926 the famous Charleston was judged as being “a dangerous threat to the young” But dancing was, happily, always done in public, which is a good thing, because I remember picking up many tips from watching other dancers and adding them to my own movements.

Dancing in Time excels with the thoroughness of the author’s descriptions of the dances, and how they differ from each other, many in just small instances which nevertheless make a huge difference to the outcome of the dance. I particularly love the picture of a woman holding up her partner as he slithers to the floor asleep during a marathon dance contest!

This is a glorious book – very evocative and so very unusual. It is one you can dip into time and time again, if only to stare at the wonderful pictures.

‘Dancing in Time’ by Robert Hylton is published by the British Library, £25 hardback


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.