Cowper, Arthur

Arthur was born in about 1857, learnt to play and dance and eventually took over from his uncle Robert. After Robert’s death Arthur held ballroom dancing classes twice a week in York. On Mondays the class ran from 7.00 – 10.30 pm the first hour being for beginners. On Thursdays the length of the class was the same but this was devoted entirely to beginners.

Arthur charged a guinea a “term”, which lasted for ten or twelve weeks. The pupils had numbered tickets and when they arrived the doorman would tick off their numbers in a book. On Saturday afternoons he held a children’s class at which he taught not only ballroom dancing but also a number of fancy dances. Arthur held both a juvenile and adult ball at Christmas time. These were for pupils and their guests only, and were devoted entirely to ballroom dancing with no exhibitions.

 On the evenings when he held ho classes in York, Arthur took classes in some of the villages and towns in the surrounding area (for example Sutton on Derwent, Sutton on Forest, Shipton, Poppleton and Coxwold). These were frequently held in barns and lasted only for one term, although if the pupils requested it he would return for a second term. Arthur frequently walked to these classes and on one occasion when the roads were deep in snow he became tangled in telephone wires brought down by the weather. At the end of the term in the villages he would hold a ball lasting until 3.00a.m. and on these occasions Arthur would provide a band. Arthur had three daughters. Elsie, Beatrice and Gladys. The first two assisted him with the classes when they were old enough and eventually took over their father’s dancing academy when he retired.

From Elsie’s memory her father taught the following dances:

Quadrilles, Waltz Cotillion,Caledonians, Sir Roger de Coverley, Lancers, Corkscrew (this only until c.1900), Waltz, Galop, Polka, Barn Dance, Schottische, Highland Schottische, Valeta.

Arthur also taught the following fancy dances for use in concerts:

Skirt Dance (or the Dame Marjorie Gavotte), Japanese Dance, Tambourine Dance, Gypsy Dance, Spanish Dance, Fan Gavotte, Gavotte and Minuet, Sailor’s Hornpipe.


Cowper, Misses Elsie & Beatrice, Acomb, York, England, 28 March 1960

Cowper, Roland, Whitehaven, England, 6 January 1960