January 15, 2010

19th Century Dancing meets 21st Century Dancing; How to Dance the Virginia Reel

Civil War Reenactor ball        My little sister (17) has received a permission slip for school dances. I remember those dances--they were gross! I really don't think myself much of a prude but some of those "dance moves" seemed like they should have been a private matter. I'm guessing that the dances haven't improved much since I was in high school; the permission slip included these rules:
" All students must pass a breathalyzer upon entering the dance. Every dancer must remain in the vertical position. Students are not permitted to bend over and hands may not rest on the knees or be placed on the floor. 'Grinding', 'Freaking' or any mimicking of sexual acts is not permitted. Front-to-back touching or grinding of genital areas to buttocks is not permitted. Students are not permitted to straddle legs or hips. Hands should be visible at all times and should remain on shoulders or waists only."  That's a direct quote--I couldn't make that up! (I don't even know what "freaking" is.)
     So I offered to teach my sister and her friends a few 19th century dances to dance during the prom. They are weird enough to want to. :D  Hopefully there will be a few slow songs that the dances will work with. I'm still deciding on dances but I bet everyone agrees on The Virgina Reel. 

Scanned Excerpt from The Art of Dancing by Edward Ferrero (1859):

Civil War Reenactor DanceThe Virgina Reel was an old dance by the 1860s and was popular in the 18th century. There are many versions of the dance but Ball decorum states that if you know a different version of a dance, you should always dance the version that is being danced at a particular Ball. It was first printed by Sir Roger De Coverly in 1685 and is said to be the most popularly used dance in period films. It is a good group dance because every guy gets to dance with every girl and no one is left out.  

If anyone wishes to learn Civil War Era dances, there are free dance lessons being offered at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA.

*Note: The first picture is of me getting ready for my second ball, a long time ago! Okay, a few years. I wish I had a nicer more period correct dress but that was all I could afford at the time. The bottom etching is from Harper's Weekly in 1863 and was drawn by Winslow Homer. It is an etching of the Russian Ball held in New York. 

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