Curious about the sort of dances that might happen at this shindig? It’s called English Country Dance and it is the forerunner to American Contra dancing and to square dancing in some ways. This is the sort of dancing that you see in the ballroom or Assembly Room scenes of Jane Austen film adaptations.
The dances vary from slow and stately to exuberant and fun. They also range from simple to very intricate. At our Rout, we will be sticking to the beginning and intermediate range of difficulty.
The dances can be easily taught on the night and they will be “called”, meaning that you will be guided through the steps as you dance (by the wonderful Evo Bluestein). Partner switching is encouraged and you don’t need to arrive with a partner of your own, but attending with a group of friends makes it a lot of fun.
Here are a few examples of English Country Dance via YouTube:
This first dance is called Well Hall. It is a fine example of a beginning-intermediate level dance. You can see that it is full of walking patterns and turns and that couples move up or down the line and wind up dancing with a new couple next to them after each set of patterns is completed. This is what makes English Country and Contra dancing so much fun- the social mixing component. It is a great way to meet new people and connect with people in your community.
The group dancing it are called the Louisiane Vintage Dancers. They are dancing at the Mandeville Jane Austen Festival.
Another fun, easy dance! Ore Boggy:
Another popular dance is The Duke of Kent’s Waltz (which is different than a waltz as we know it!)
Of course, during the Regency, men and women of family and rank were instructed in dancing and regularly practiced. That is how Darcy and Elizabeth managed conversation with such aplomb (even if they “talk by rule”!). This dance from the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is called “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot” (‘maggot’ is a period term for “fancy” or “delight”). It is a very complex dance and many dancers practice for a long time to get it right. When it is done well, it IS a delight to both watch and perform:
We will post more about the dances at Mrs. Parks’ Rout when we have a better idea of the exact dances we will be scheduling!