Penington’s Rant

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

Thanks to American Antiquarian Society and Lawrence Library in Pepperell, MA

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.

Thanks to Natalie at the Vaughn Williams Memorial Library

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.


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

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