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There haven’t been as many chances to dance as I’d like of late, so when I got the Museum of the American Revolution’s invitation to come dancing at their January History After Hours event, I said yes. Luckily, I had to be in Philadelphia for the next day anyway, so out came the 1780 appropriate dress and the fancier shoes, along with my resolve not to be a wallflower, and off I went. I very nearly made it on time, but I dressed as fast as I could, and managed to join the crowd with my dress pinned and my hair tamed.

As at past balls, I was rescued by a kind soul (and excellent dancer) who took me through the steps and saved me from my occasional pattern dyslexia. (Reversing can be tricky– they didn’t let me drive the forklift much in school because my brain sometimes struggles to process a mirror image.) But Miss V was a gracious partner, and reader, I confess: I greatly enjoyed myself.

One aspect of historical dancing that has always appealed to me is the relationship between classical ballet and traditional English country dances. While you won’t find tutus on Jane Austen’s dance floor, you will find balancé and glissade, and the use of positions. This connection between two things I love, and the way movement can connect us to the past, makes me enjoy these dances even more. Using steps I learned and practiced endlessly decades ago in a hobby I pursue today is a very personal reminder of the persistence of the past.

An evening of dancing, with the best dance caller and instructor I’ve yet had the pleasure to meet, was a welcome winter treat.


Many thanks to Miss G.J. for the use of the photos, and deep honours to Miss V.D. as a partner, and Mr. N.V d.M., dancing master.