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
Oak Stick (or The Oak Stick) is found in one publication in London (Campbell, Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1790) and two manuscripts in America – Nancy Shepley’s manuscript of 1794 from Pepperell, Massachusetts and Asa Wilcox’s Book of Figures from 1793. Continue reading
The Young Widow is a lovely, unusual, triple-minor longways set dance that we often dance and enjoy in Sudbury. We find no instructions or listing for this dance in England, but It apparently was a very popular dance early in United States history, where we find a copy of instructions for it published as early as 1788 Continue reading
This triple-minor dance has the first and third couples moving around the second couple. This dance keeps most of the dancers moving most of the time, and is fun both to dance and to watch.
There are many surviving eighteenth century texts, from both England and America, that contain versions of dances to this tune. Our reconstruction is based on versions from four sources.
Here is a list of some of the figures used in Eighteenth-century dances, with explanations of how they are danced. Because of the quantity of figures, and the different definitions that were given at different times, this list will probably never be complete, but if there is a figure which you would like defined or clarified, please let us know. Continue reading
The earliest known version of the dance Ashley’s Ride in North America is found in a manuscript by Nancy Shepley of Pepperell, Massachusetts, circa 1794. This is a hand-written manuscript of over 50 dances (dance figures are included, but no tune). Nancy Shepley’s manuscript was sent to us courtesy, American Antiquarian Society. Thank you to them for their support!
There is, as well, a copy of a dance called “Ashley’s Ride” in a book entitled Twenty Four Country Dances for the year 1790. With proper tunes and directions to each dance, etc. by W. Campbell, published in London in 1789 or 1790. The dance figures in Campbell are quite different from the figures in the Shepley manuscript, but it is interesting that the tune apparently was first introduced in England and moved to New England after the American Revolution. Continue reading
This triple minor dance was included in Thompson’s Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1777, published in London. All three couples are moving for most of the dance, which is unusual! Continue reading
We have reconsidered our reconstruction of the dance York Fusiliers. Our thanks to Susan de Guardiola for her comments and advice on our previous interpretation. Thanks as well to the Milne Special Collections of the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, New Hampshire, for sending us a copy of John Griffiths’ 1794 booklet.
The first known publication of the dance “York Fusiliers” was in John Griffiths’ 1794 booklet, A Collection of the Newest Cotillions, and Country Dances; Principally Composed By John Griffiths, Dancing Master. Continue reading