Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dance? In these shoes?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Loretta reports:

Speaking of platform shoes, how about disco?

The 18th and 19th centuries had their version of disco--and I think that might fit better than the term ballroom dancing. Yes, they danced in ballrooms. But, as Susan & I discovered at Colonial Williamsburg, they also danced wherever and whenever they could get someone to make music (a single flute was sufficient) and a group of people to step in time to the music. What makes it more like disco, I think, is that the man didn’t hold the woman around the waist. They barely held each other. They touched hands. For some moves, they hooked arms do-si-do style.

This is a chart of minuet dance steps. Here's the whole book.

Our ancestors made do with a single flute or a pianoforte. With disco, a record or tape player was sufficient. But everybody dressed up for dancing. Men showed off their grace and elegance. And so I thought of Fred Astaire, naturally, but also John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

Fred & Adelle-w
Styles change, but we can always appreciate a man who moves with grace.


Sandy said...

Be still my beating heart! John Travolta, Fred Astaire, and the minuet in a single blog by Loretta Chase! What fun!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Loretta, I recently read a book about Beau Nash and Bath. I guess the minuet was the big dance, back in the day. What really stunned me was the fact that one couple would perform at a time - in front of the entire assembly. If that's true, can you imagine the pressure?!

Myretta Robens said...

Thanks for this blog, Loretta and Susan. I'm really enjoying it (being a nerdy history girl at heart, myself). I thought I'd pass on another good dancing link. This is from the Library of Congress site and is the 1824 Dancing Manual of Thomas Wilson, Dancing Master of the King's Theatre:
Lots of dances in here.

Sue Stewart said...

Just a wee correction -- linking arms might be promenade style or something to that effect -- but partners do not touch during a do-si-do. :)

Usually each person crosses their arms at the chest. From a facing position, the partners step toward each other, pass each other, cross back to back, and step back to face again.

That's a do-si-do ... :D LOVE the blog!

Loretta Chase said...

Vanessa, think of all the steps! But we have to remember, they didn't have all the distractions we do today. Privileged people had plenty of time to memorize dance steps. Myretta, thank you so much for the link. I can't get enough of this stuff. Sue, I show my ignorance. I checked spelling of do-si-do but did not check meaning, thinking I was so smart. But you jogged my memory. We did learn a little square dancing in school--and I mixed up promenade with do-si-do. But this is why it's so great to communicate with others who care about such things!

Loretta Chase said...

Sandy, I'd never seen this Astaire photo before, but it does say everything. And Travolta was a revelation in that movie.

QNPoohBear said...

Did you ladies see the gentleman with flute in his walking stick? He's an accomplished musician and a long-time employee in Colonial Williamsburg. He plays beautiful music at Her Ladyship's ball and for the stage players.

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket