Monday, November 4, 2019

The Golden Lion Country Dance: An 18th Century Party

The rains came.  And the water poured from the sky seemingly in bucketfuls.  But we---we were toasty,  dry,  and warm dancing to reels inside a 150 year old schoolhouse.  No,  'twas not a building from the 18th century as we would have preferred,  for those are hard to come by in lower Michigan.
So the old 1872 schoolhouse in Eastpointe,  though not necessarily historically accurate,  would have to do,  at least for now,  especially for the price.
But the look and feel is a lot closer than one would think  (click HERE),  and better than using a high school gymnasium or a wedding hall,  right?
And then fill this old building with 18th century living 
historians,  well,  it certainly does pass quite nicely.
The American Colonial Dance is synonymous with 18th century English Country Dance.  A dance or ball was an opportunity to socialize,  show off the fashions of the day,  and one of the few opportunities for young people to meet an array of matrimonial prospects.
Dance Masters advertisements were seen regularly in 18th and early 19th century in American news papers,  where they offered services to teach classes in the hall,  or to give private lessons at the clients residence.  Many times they also offered lessons in fencing to young gentlemen.
Country Dance,  intended for general participation,  is the granddaddy of our present day Square Dance whose movements are in many cases quite similar,  however the country dance is a bit slower allowing time for a bit of conversation,  one liners,  or even flirting.
By the way,  George and Martha Washington loved  to dance the simple but elegant and happy dances of the 18th century.
And so do we,  as you shall soon see:
Refreshments - care for some cider?
It was early in the year when Tony Gerring came up with the idea of holding an 18th century dance.  It's been a long while - decades,  I hear - since the metro-Detroit area of  Michigan has held such a festivity,  so when Tony decided to give it a go,  he put his own money and his best foot forward and,  well,  it showed,  for all of us who attended the Golden Lion Country Dance had a wonderful time.
To begin with,  guests were treated to a few treats along with apple cider.
Enclosed glass lanterns were on hand to add to the ambience.

And even a couple of carved turnips
that my son Miles carved were on hand,
helping us to remember just how close
we were to All Hallow's Eve
(turnips were carved before pumpkins
back in the day)
Besides the ritual bonfires  (meant to ward off evil spirits)  that were lit on All Hallow's Eve,  mumming and guising  (Trick-or-treating)  were also rituals performed during Samhain/Hallowe'en.
The traditional illumination for guisers or pranksters abroad on the night was provided by turnips  (or mangel wurzels),  hollowed out to act as lanterns,  lit with coal or a candle,  and often carved with grotesque faces.
Turnip lanterns usually represented supernatural beings and were used to chase evil spirits.  Guisers used them to scare people,  while in some cases they were set on windowsills to guard homes against evil.
Irish immigrants brought the jack-o’-lantern custom to North America.  Here,  turnips were slowly replaced by pumpkins to make the iconic Hallowe'en decorations,  and eventually became the plant of choice.

On the left,  meet the host of the country dance,
Mr.  Tony Gerring.  With him is long-time
reenactor and friend,  Ken Roberts.

And next we have the wonderful Dance Band who performed:
Matt McCoy – flute, pennywhistle, recorder
Susie Lorand – fiddle
Rick Avery - keyboard
and caller Jim McKinney

My wife and I
Patty doesn't reenact nearly as much as she used to,  though every-so-often I can coax her to put on her period clothing and come out with me,  as she did for this dance.  And did we dance!  Even with my sciatica,  we were on the floor for probably seven out of the ten dances.  I did pay for it the following day...

My son and his lady
This was Heather's first time at a period dance,  and she certainly could not help but join in the fun,  especially during the Virginia Reel!  She did great!

Three lovely ladies helped each other to look
perfect before the dancing began.

Emma and her gentleman caller 
looked quite elegant.
I'd not met either of these two young people before this night,  though Emma has been a member of my Citizen's of the American Colonies Facebook page for sometime now.  It was nice to meet her in person.

Conversations abounded,  even in mixed
company,  though 'tis not always proper
for a lady to join with the men.

Let the dancing begin!
Now,  I am going to list the songs and dances that were played in the order they were performed,  thanks to the kind folks in the band for giving me the list,  but the photos may not necessarily go with the dance listed.
"Lady George Murray’s Reel"
(Soldier’s Joy)
The band performed the ancient music flawlessly,  and I recognized many of the old tunes,  for as a collector of music of all flavors,  I have a rather large collection of period tunes mixed among my classic rock,  oldies,  swing,  hillbilly,  and other musical styles.
But this night we heard the music that was favorable to those from the later 18th century.
For the second dance we had  THREE COUPLE CIRCLE:  
"The Gelding Of The Devil"   
(A Hundred Pipers)

The third dance and tune was  LONGWAYS,  DUPLE MINOR PROPER:  
(The Ton)

For our 4th dance,  which was a reel,  we had:  LONGWAYS PROPER FOR FOUR COUPLES  
"The Major"
(Flowers of Edinburgh)

“Rural Felicity”
(Haste To The Wedding)
The country  (or,  in some countries, contra)  dances involved interaction with your partner and/or with other dancers,  usually with a progression so that you dance with everyone in your set.  It is common in our modern times to have a  "caller"  who teaches the dance and then calls the figures as you dance.  The most common formations are  "longways" -  couples in long lines,  and squares,  consisting of four couples. 

Number six was  LONGWAYS PROPER 
“The Beaux of Albany”
(Lannigan’s Ball)
Susie Lorand – fiddle
Matt McCoy – flute, pennywhistle, recorder
The music most commonly associated with country dancing has always been folk/country,  and in modern society would be known better as traditional/historical music.
My wife and Heather enjoyed watching
the others dance as well as the
fine music being performed.

7th tune and dance was  LONGWAYS PROPER FOR FOUR COUPLES  
“The Pleasure of Providence”
(The Rose Tree)
And then we heard and danced to
“Rickett’s Hornpipe”

“Miss Arnold’s Delight”
Until the end of the evening came 'round:
The 10th and final dance was my very favorite of all:  LONGWAYS PROPER FOR SIX COUPLES   
“The Virginia Reel”
(Fisher’s Hornpipe/Mason’s Apron)
Click the link to hear  "Fisher's Hornpipe"

And once the dancing was done,  the band played a final number:  "The Ashgrove"
What a fine collection of period music and 18th century dancing.
This is,  perhaps,  my favorite of all the pictures taken this night,  
for it just seems to allow the viewer to peer into the past;  a 
perception of time and space weaved together,  "allowing time for 
a bit of conversation,  one liners,  or even flirting." 

~Another group photo of all who came,  though this was taken 
without flash for a more natural feel.
Many thanks to all who joined in the revelry,  for because of 
you,  it was a grand success.  
My wife and I have been to many,  many Civil War balls and dances,  but never an 18th century Colonial Country Dance.  The differences?  Well,  the music,  for one.  The tunes were a mite older than what we were used to hearing,  but every bit as good.  The dances,  aside from the Virginia Reel,  were also new to us.  But,  I must say,  we had so much fun - as much as we have at any other dance,  for the basic idea of a community festivity such as this was just as strong in either era.
Yeah,  we certainly enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Thank you Tony for putting it all together.  I look forward to the next one.

Until next time,  see you in time.

Information on the history of the Country Dance came directly from HERE

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