The tune Allemande Swiss, and the dances written to go to it, were extremely popular in late eighteenth century America. (It is not to be confused with the tune “Swiss Allemand”, and the dances which were written to go to it.) Approximately 20 dance manuals and hand-written manuscripts from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century include both country dances and a cotillion with the name Allemand Swiss. As spelling was not standardized in the 18th century, we find many varied spellings of the title, like Continue reading
We found “None so Pretty” in a collection of country dances from Walpole, New Hampshire entitled A Collection of Contra Dances of Late, Approved, and Fashionable Figures, Walpole: Museum Press, 1799. Continue reading
Market Lass first appeared in The New Collection of Country Dances by John Burbank, published in Brookfield, MA in 1799. We have been enjoying this dance for many months now, and want to share it. Continue reading
“Sweet Richard” is a name that has been used for more than one tune, and more than one set of figures. What’s more, the same set of figures, danced to the different tunes, becomes a very different dance! We’ve danced more than one version. Continue reading
Penington’s Rant was published in London by John Johnson around 1748 and by Samuel and Charles Thompson in their Two Hundred Country Dances Vol. 1, published in 1758 (or, according to the Tune Archive, published in 1757). It was likely published in Thompson’s Twenty Four Country Dances for 1751 or 1752, We have not found any written record of this dance in the colonies, but it is likely that it was enjoyed on both sides of the Atlantic! Continue reading
We spent some hours at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts photographing the tune and dance manuscript of Jeremiah Brown of Seabrook, NH from approximately 1782, as well as a dance publication from 1801 which was owned by William Turner, a well-known dance instructor (and son and grandson of dancing masters) of Boston. It was inscribed:
William Turner his property presented by a friend Cate Farna
It was exciting to handle a book which he had owned!
We wish to thank all the staff members at the Antiquarian society for their help. We will be making a return trip in the future!
Just a few days later, on Saturday, October 8, we stopped at the Lawrence Library in Pepperell, Massachusetts, hoping to learn more about Nancy Shepley of Pepperell, who wrote a manuscript of dances ca. 1794. The librarians allowed us access to their History Room, and we spent more than half an hour browsing through their holdings. We tried to find out more about Nancy Shepley, and discovered that there were Shepleys in Pepperell at the correct time, but they had no daughter listed as ‘Nancy’. They did have both a daughter named Anna and a daughter named Hannah, both of which might have been called Nancy. We will need to return, as the library closed at 2 pm that day. We wish to thank the librarians for allowing us to look through their historical treasures.
It was exciting in the past few days to be in contact with Natalie, a librarian of the Vaughn Williams Memorial Library, at the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) in London. As we continue to research dances from the 18th century, we wanted to get hold of a copy of Twenty-Four Country Dances published by John Walsh in 1764 in London and Jacob and I understood that EFDSS had a copy. After some back and forth, Natalie was able to send us a complete copy of the work and we downloaded it (it took a bit of extra time as the copy EFDSS had bound as Walsh 1764 was actually incomplete and had bound together some pages from Walsh’s 1764 publication and some from his 1763 publication of the same name.) Thankfully, Natalie was exceedingly helpful – and we thank her for her help.
The version of Successful Campaign which we dance was written down by George Bush during the Revolutionary War. It is reported that George Washington danced a version of this dance in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1781. Continue reading
Portsmouth Harbour is a lovely dance and tune that was first published in London in Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1772 by Charles and Samuel Thompson, and was also included in Thompson’s compleat collection of 200 favorite country dances: perform’d at court [,] Bath [,] Tunbridge & all public assemblies with proper figures or directions to each tune: set for the violin [,] German flute & hautboy. Vollm. 3] circa 1775. The annual Thompson volumes appear to have come out in the fall of the year previous to the year mentioned (in this case, 1771) and, as American dancers seem to have really enjoyed learning new dances, were shipped over to America within months.
Portsmouth Harbour is the earliest longways set dance we have yet uncovered that includes the allemande figure. Continue reading
The Convention is found in John Griffiths’ publication Collection of the Newest Cotillions and Country Dances Principally Composed by John Griffiths, Dancing Master. To Which is Added Instances of Ill Manners, to be carefully avoided by Youth of both sexes, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1794. *
The Convention is a cotillion. Cotillions were danced by an even number of couples, usually by four couples standing in a square set. Continue reading