This past weekend I persuaded my husband to go with me on another research trip, this time to attend an historical reenactment, an English country dance, or more specifically, a ball
Celebrating the glorious victories of Admiral Lord Horatio Viscount Nelson and the gallant tars of the British Royal Navy.
One staple of romance novels set in the Georgian and Regency period is dancing, either at a private ball, a local assembly, or an impromptu family gathering.
If you read many of these historical romances you know the tropes:
- The hero snubs the heroine, or the heroine snubs the hero.
- The heroine is lured onto a dark terrace or into a private place and seduced or even worse, abducted.
- Or the heroine sneaks away from the ball, only to find herself in the clutches of a bad boy hero.
None of those things happened at the Admiral Nelson Ball! Though the youngest dancers were Lydia Bennet’s age, the crowd was mostly older, with not a rake among them. And the atmosphere leaned more toward Pride and Prejudices’s sedate 1995 Colin Firth version of country dancing, not the raucous, exuberant Meryton Assembly depicted in the 2005 film with Keira Knightley.
English Country Dance is only one form of country dancing popular in the U.S. During one of the breaks, Bob Altman of the Whirled Peas, the ensemble providing the live music, gave me an overview of another popular country dance form, Contra dance. I’d never heard of it.
Some of the thirteen dances performed at the ball date to the eighteenth century, but there are hundreds more. The first book of country dances was compiled in the seventeenth century by music publisher John Playford, and dances continue to be choreographed. The newest dance at the ball “Rum Cakes” was created in 2015 by our caller, Judee Schumacher-Provonost.
Dress was formal, and period costumes were optional, though most attendees made the attempt.
We retired between sets to the supper room.
I’m sure the organizers of the Meryton Assembly would have used paper plates, had they been available then.
If you’re wondering, I did dance–the easy dances. How well depended on my partner in each dance, but this was thankfully a friendly, tolerant group, and it was great fun!
What about you–do you like historical reenactments? Have you ever attended an event like this?
If you love stories from this historical era and if you like to dance, check out the Country Dance and Song Society for activities near you.
Oh yes, and p.s., my husband didn’t dance but he didn’t complain either, and he loved the music!
Images: Wikimedia (portrait of Nelson), all others, the author