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Colonial Dance Resources

March 7th, 2011 · No Comments · Tags: ··

Looking for resources on Colonial dances?  Here are suggestions from NDEO (National Dance Education Organization) members from across the country**:

The Colonial Williamsburg website has a rich resource teacher site.
from Eileen Sheehan, Illinois

Colonial Singing Games and Dances,” produced by the Williamsburg Foundation, has dances which are notated and easy to follow.
from Elly Porter, Washington, DC

In addition to Colonial Singing Games and Dances and White Mountain Reel [which seems to be out of print], one should know about Chip Hendrickson‘s book, Colonial Social Dancing for Children:
from Jacob Bloom, Massachusetts, a friend of NDEO member Erica Sigal, Massachusetts

Colonial Social Dancing for Children by Charles C. Hendrickson
Contact the Hendrickson group in Connecticut
Also, Williamsburg’s foundation is a wonderful resource.
from Suzanne E. Henneman, Maryland

Early American Roots,” a CD from the Smithsonian, includes 22 short musical pieces from Colonial America. From Hesperus, a contact address is:  Maggie’s Music, PO Box 490, Shady Side, MD20764, phone 410-867-0642.  The publisher might have information about the dances done to pieces on the recording.
from Rima Faber, Maryland

Colonists would have been Englishmen and Scots primarily. Their dances were likely the dances they brought with them; round dances and country dances would give you a wealth of ideas, using circles, weaving, and partner exchanges. The steps are comprised of slip steps (chasses moving sideways), retire skips (forward or backward), skip change of step (hop step step step) and setting step (usually a pas de basques danced tightly as if doing the “pony” from the 60s). Your courtesies, based on the manners of the time, include bows from the men and “acknowledgements” from the ladies. A simple allemande is also appropriate and can be done in much the same fashion as we saw in the 70s on Soul Train…just far more refined!
A good general reference to have on hand if you are working with dance in the context of social or geographic influences is
Dance A While: Handbook for Folk, Square, Contra and Social Dance
by Jane Harris, Anne Pittman, Marlys Waller, Cathy Dark, 8th edition published in 2000 by Allyn and Bacon.
from Kathryn Austin, Florida

The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian have tons of online resources.
Try YouTube — look for the NY Baroque Ensemble and/or the Colonial Williamsburg VA dancers.
from Karen Bradley, Washington D.C.

The Library of Congress website may have some video clips of dances from that period. It’s a great site but you’ll have to kind of work your way through it to see if it has anything relevant.  From the site: “To form an idea of the type of dance that was performed during the American colonial period, see the essays on baroque and late eighteenth-century social dance in the special presentation on the history of dance accompanying An American Ballroom Companion: Dance Instruction Manuals, ca. 1490-1920.”
Another nice site:
The Society of Dance History Scholars has a really nice site as well; check out the “Colonial Dancing Master” in particular.
AND remember the Virginia Reel was supposedly Georgre Washington’s favorite dance.
from Shana Habel, California

For European-based Colonial American Dance I highly recommend the book / CD entitled Chimes of Dunkirk: Great Dances for Children, available from New England Dancing Masters at 41 West Street in Brattleboro, Vermont 05301.
For African American dances of the Colonial period, including Juba and the Ring Shout, I have always reached out to my NYC colleagues who are experts in this area such as Mickey Davidson. There is some excellent footage of early African American dance in the Channel 13 Dancing series, volume 5, ‘New Worlds, New Forms.’
from Sandra Stratton-Gonzalez, New York

The New England Dancing Masters have a wonderful series of line, contra, and square dances that could be pared down to be more authentic for Colonial Dance.  White Mountain Reel also has a collection with 2 pieces that use sparse instrumentation, more authentic to the Colonial period.
from Laurel Lesio-Eisenstadt, New York

**This list is compiled from the NDEO K-12 Special Interest Forum. NDEO (National Dance Education Organization) has a set of email forums for special interest groups within the field, where NDEO members exchange ideas. Folks not belonging to NDEO who are interested in this or any other topic on dance education should consider joining NDEO and the online discussion! Current members can get discounted prices, if they use user name & password, to order resources from the online store.

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