In honor of April Fool's Day, I bring you an image of a jester and a ballerina which I found the other day in the Dance Division's photo collection. We don't know much about this photo, except that it's an example of the kinds of variety dancing performed in the early part of the 20th century.
It turns out there are lots of fools in the Dance Division (not among the staff, of course)!
Our collection even includes mime works like Bob Berky's Foolsfire and Fool Moon, starring Bill Irwin and David Shiner.
Fools abound beyond the 20th century as well. A print from the 19th century depicts a jester carrying a scepter with a replica of his own head.
Even earlier images exist of fools, such as this section from a 12 panel 18th century engraving. This fool is a fine example of the tradition of Morris dancing, a kind of folk dancing which continues to be studied today, and which is documented by numerous books in our collection.
In fact, our records of Morris dancing include several editions of Cecil Sharp James's* The Morris Book, which provides some instructions on the fool's jig. James states that "the purpose of this dance to enable the Fool, who is usually a very clever dancer, to demonstrate his prowess":
And I would be remiss if I didn't include instructions for April Fools Day, a dance brought to Australia by Cornish settlers: