Posted by Captain Everett on June 14, 1998 at 12:02:19:
In response to Does anyone know any Regency Dances?, written by Katherine on June 13, 1998 at 03:04:12
] I'm having a 'Pride and Prejudice' theme dinner party, and I really need to know instructions for some Regency dancing. Does anyone know any, or any sites on the net where I could find them?
The links will provide you with some information on the dances, and appropriate music for each. Once you know the basic steps, the music can "tell" you what to do next. Many of the dances had a particular song associated with it whose sound closely matched the movements. Otherwise, try to find one one that matches the AAB, AABB, etc. (Sorry I can't be much more specific, I'm not musically inclined.) The choice of music available, might be an important factor.
The two links might provide some helpful contacts. I would point out, however, that "Country" and "Contra" are not exactly the same. The latter is a more modern development from the original dances and have some elements added. Myself, I have not attended any Contra lessons, but from meeting them at Regency Dances, crossing over is quite easy if one knows the other form.
Playford and Strafford (from the second link) do provide descriptions of some dances. They do, however, require some interpretation to someone not familiar with the terms. Most of these were danced in "Longways" sets, ie two lines with the men on one side, the women on the other. The "Head" of the set is traditionally the one closest to the music (although I've seen that changed for artistic(?) reasons in some movies). The "Head" or "First" Couple begins the dance, while the others wait. They will interact with each other, the second couple (next down), or even the third couple, depending upon the dance. As they progress through all the movements, they will move (usually) one place down the line. They now treat the couple below them (ie away from the head) as their new number 2. The couple who just went through all this are said to be the "Active" couple. The others are "Inactive." Generally, the Inactive couples only move in conjuction with the Active couple. (Thus it was possible for the chacters in the various movies to have lengthy conversations while waiting to dance).
You will notice that we now have an Inactive couple at the Head of the Set. They have a little while longer to wait. The Active couple continue throug the movements again, until they reach third place. At this point the new Head Couple may, or may not, be ready to become an Active Couple and start dancing. The decision is based upon whether the dance is a "Duple" or "Triple" Proper. The Duple means that two couples are needed to perform the dance, thus as soon as the new Head Couple has a free couple below them they can begin. In the Triple, the Lead Couple needs two free couples to perform the movements. The effect is you begin the dance from the head with one couple, add another until it is possible to have everyone in movement, and then begin to unwind it. The first of the Active couple once they reach the "Bottom" of the set, become Inactives. (Note: near the end of the set it might be necessary to "dance" with, or go around (etc.) an imaginary couple in order to finish the movement off - we refer to "Harvey's.") The original Active couple will gradually work their way back to the head. As the other Actives become Inactive you eventually end up with only the couple who started at the bottom dancing. Once the original Head Couple reaches the top of the set, the dance is done.
A few other terms that may help. Turn single: turn yourself about on the spot. Turn your partner: join hands and turn around each other to original place. Circle four: Active and inactive couple (4 people) join hands and move in a circle to left/right as indicated. Allemande right: the do-a-do, or "dosey-do", moving back to back with partner, passing first with right shoulder. "Set" or Setting Step: 1)Take a step to the right; 2)Bring left heel to right instep, step in place on righ foot; 3)Take step to the left; 4)Bring right heelt to left instep, step in place on left foot - this is done in a very small area (no large than an 8½x11' paper - to be done without a bounce in the step.
Some of the dances mentioned at the two links may be more complicted than what you require. Among the dances the Fort York Regency Dancers teach to beginners, or when doing audience participation numbers are: "La Jupon Rouge," "Cary Owen" aka "Gary Owen" [most famous as Gen. Custer's favourite tune], and "Roger de Coverley" which developed into the Virginia Reel, and was the traditional last dance of the evening. Sort of the "Stairway to Heaven" of the early 1800's ;-) I do have the steps to those three dances which I can e-mail you if you wish, or can try to answere specific questions.
I trust I have not rambled too much, or made any errors an expert can pick out (just going off the top of my head). But if one has never really encountered Country Dancing before, it can all seem pretty confusing, so a few of the basics can help.
I remain, etc.
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