Dance Party Friday: Moves like Washington (English country dance)

2014-07-04T07:30:00Z Dance Party Friday: Moves like Washington (English country dance)Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 04, 2014 7:30 am  • 

Q: What was the most popular dance in 1776? 

A: Indepen-dance.

Dancing was not a silly riddle in Colonial America. Dancing was a favorite pastime of the colonists, according to the Colonial Music Institute. “There was a huge repertory of dance tunes, mostly English and Celtic reels, hornpipes, jigs and minuets.”

Dancing an important social activity and played a major role in courtship, according to The Journal of the American Revolution​​. (There was neither Facebook nor match.com at the time.)

There were primarily two types of dances in the colonies, says the Journal​. “There were the formal dances of the wealthy and upper middle classes and the lighthearted dances of the remainder of the population. In many cases, dancing was simply an excuse for a party and one of numerous activities at the event.”

George Washington frequently cut a rug. “He is known to always end his annual Birthnight Ball by dancing it up, he was the first one out on the floor and the last to leave it,” says ​the Journal. 

“If you ever find yourself in Alexandria, Virginia, and would like to dance at a Colonial Ball, stop at Gadsby’s Tavern, which George Washington frequented and where his Birthnight Ball is still being held,” according to the Journal.  

English country dance was one of the most popular, accessible forms of recreation in colonial America, according to the Williamsburg Heritage Dancers

The Dancers website explains:

 “English country dances are 'set dances,' meaning that rather than two partners dancing only with each other (as in ballroom dance), the partners form 'sets' of various numbers and configurations, and couples in the set interact with each other. Some dances are for just two couples, while others are for as many as want to join. Some are configured in lines, some in circles, and some in squares.

“Wherever the musicians stand is considered the top of the hall. The couple closest to them is the 'top couple.' In a square configuration, this would make the couple opposite them the 'bottom couple,' and the others 'side couples.'

 “A caller calls out which moves to perform. While dances often have moves that are unique to them, there is a standard repertoire of moves that show up in many dances.”

You probably won’t find English country dancing at a local club this weekend. We posted a video about the dance, just in case …

And back to the silliness —

If Maroon 5's forebearers had been around in 1776, we imagine these lyrics: 

All the moves like Washington

I've got the moves like Washington

I've got the moves like Washington ... 

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