Portsmouth Harbour

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 (cotillion)

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

Thanks to Robert Keller!

We have not posted on this blog for quite some time now.  We were relying heavily on Dance Figures Index: American Country Dances 1730-1810 by Robert Keller, that used to be available online.  It has been an invaluable resource for us (as it has, likely, for many people interested in historical dance), as it provides information as to which dance was published in which publication or manuscript, and where to get copies of that particular manuscript. Unfortunately, the Kellers’ website (both of Bob Keller and his wife, Kate van Winkle Keller), the repository of years of historical dance scholarship, was hacked and was not available online for some months.  Thankfully, that is no longer the case, at least for American dance.  Bob Keller’s Dance Figures Index for American dance is now availablet http://www.cdss.org/elibrary/DFIA/index.htm

We recently purchased a copy of the Dance Figures Index of American Dance in book form and just wish to acknowledge the scholarship of both Robert Keller, and Kate van Winkle Keller, who have spent many, many years on the history of American dance.

Jacob and Nancy Bloom

Soldier’s Joy

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.

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Ashley’s Ride

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

York Fusiliers

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 MasterContinue reading