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December 06, 2009

Dancing Badly is Not Historically Incorrect

goose-step.jpgIn trying to recreate historical dance, or any other historical performance art form where sound or film recordings are not available, you constantly run into the question of "what is authentic"?

With social dancing, this is a rather acute question, as the sources for these dances are generally dance manuals. These dance manuals are often very specific on the proper way to perform the dances in question (except when they're not, and assume that everyone already knows the fundamentals of the dances performed - but that's another issue).

Certainly. to dance the dance exactly as described in the book is more than likely correct for some portion of the dancing population of the time, but what if you dance that dance some other way -- is that wrong? Is that unhistorical? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Continue reading "Dancing Badly is Not Historically Incorrect"

Posted by Walter at 03:02 PM | Comments (1)

October 05, 2009

Newport Vintage Dance Week 2009

This just in from the Newport Vintage Dancers:

22nd Annual Newport Vintage Dance Week
the Week of August 1, 2010
Newport County, Rhode Island
Sponsored by: The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers

The Newport Vintage Dance Week for 2010 will take place the first week of August. We are still in negotiations with the School, the contract has yet to be signed, but plans are underway for a fabulous week of classes, balls and special events. Keep checking back for further information as it becomes available.

Continue reading "Newport Vintage Dance Week 2009"

Posted by Walter at 12:21 PM

September 13, 2008

Regency Dance Workshop - How it went

Last night, I led a program in "real" Regency Dance. All in all, I think it went well--even if I left my video at home. I was able to make up for it with some energetic gum flapping (my particular specialty).

We had an excellent turn out, and only a few people fled in terror once they saw what was coming. The hearty souls who stuck it out seemed to be mostly getting it, and I thank them for their patience and application.

We had an interesting side discussion. We noted the fact that many of the best loved dances in the canon (Mr. Beveridge's Maggot, Well Hall etc.) are not appropriate to the Regency period. The idea was floated of defining a vintage dance genre as being a little broader than "Regency". Perhaps "Georgian" dancing. That could cover George the I (1714) to George IV (d. 1830) - or perhaps just George III (1760 -1820).

This would cover a much broader range and style of dancing -- but first things first. Before we start worrying about the dances of the mid 18th Century, let's work on our Regency stuff.

I'm not sure when I will have a 2nd workshop. The 1st one highlighted areas where I need to hit the books and deepen my understanding of the topic -- but I hope to do it soon. It will probably be on a Sunday afternoon - early evening, and probably in Studio City.

Thanks to Marsden, Sheila and Kris for helping me in getting my points across and to all my attendees for aiding in this great experiment!


Posted by Walter at 07:35 AM

September 06, 2008

Regency Dance - Kicking it up a Notch!

I have often been dismayed by the general state of what we call "Regency Dance" as it relates to "Vintage Dance" in general. All other "Vintage Dance" disciplines, be they Victorian or Ragtime or Jazz Age or Swing, have a clear reference back to their historical roots and make a serious effort to incorporate the essentials of the dance of that era.

This is not the case with Regency Dance. Regency Dance, as it is practiced in California, and in my experience, in other parts of the world as well, is just the modern English Country Dance tradition, as revived by Mr. Cecil Sharpe in the early days of the 20th Century. The steps are omitted and people just walk, and while it is fun and easy and pleasant, it's not history. Perhaps we can do better. Perhaps we can incorporate a little more history into our Regency Dance, while still making it accessible and fun. Perhaps it's impossible, but I don't think so, and I am keen to give it a try.

Continue reading "Regency Dance - Kicking it up a Notch!"

Posted by Walter at 03:12 PM | Comments (3)

December 29, 2007

Dance Class Technology

Teachers of historical dance are not, as a general rule, the first to embrace new technology. Once they are comfortable with a particular arrangement, there seems little incentive to change.

However, the 21st Century has brought with it some very useful tools, which can make the teacher's job much easier, enhance flexibility and save a lot of time wasted looking for the right CD and the right track or (perish the thought), cuing the tape to the right spot.

What follows is my particular solution. There are other ways to do this, but this is what has worked for me.

Continue reading "Dance Class Technology"

Posted by Walter at 09:07 AM

September 12, 2007

Newport Vintage Dance Week 2008

The dates have been set for the 2008 Newport Vintage Dance Week

21st Annual Newport Vintage Dance Week
Monday August 11th to Sunday August 17th, 2008
Newport County, Rhode Island
Sponsored by: The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers

Continue reading "Newport Vintage Dance Week 2008"

Posted by Walter at 01:50 PM

August 21, 2007

Jazz Age and Ragtime Dance Bands in Southern California

Here is a quick list of the bands I know about that are keeping the flame of early 20th Century Jazz/Ragtime music alive in my Southern California neighborhood.

Note that I am only listing bands of which I have personal knowledge, and which I would recommend to someone putting on a period theme dance. There are others out there which I have not personally heard, or which I would perhaps not recommend for some reason. However, if you want to make a pitch for your favorite Southern California historical style jazz or ragtime band, please add a comment at the end of this post. Be sure to include their website or other contact information.

I will mention a few swing bands, since the swing/jazz age distinction is pretty blurry, but I won't try to list them all. I will leave that to those more deeply involved in the "swing scene".

Continue reading "Jazz Age and Ragtime Dance Bands in Southern California"

Posted by Walter at 11:50 AM

May 17, 2007

Stanford Waltz Week

From Richard Powers of Stanford:

Stanford Waltz Week: June 24-29
Waltz--Viennese, Cross-Step, Rotary, Redowa and more
Swing, Tango, Latin, Ballroom, Vintage and club dances

Continue reading "Stanford Waltz Week"

Posted by Walter at 07:25 AM | Comments (1)

May 08, 2007

Medieval Dance Question

I just received this question. My answer is below. Any additional suggestions are welcome via the "comments" feature.

I'm hoping you can help. I am a Girl Scout leader in Maryland. We have a day camp during the summer that changes themes each year. This year it is Medieval. I have been put in charge of DANCE. Don't ask me why!

Do you have any information or better yet instructions that would help me to teach a couple of medieval dances to girls ranging from 5 to 12 years old. If not do you have a suggestion where I could find such information. I would appreciate any help you could give me.


Continue reading "Medieval Dance Question"

Posted by Walter at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2007

Dance floor consideration

I received this as an email to the Social Daunce Irregulars. While it didn't seem appropriate to forward it to the full announcement list, I think it might do some good as a reminder to consider others out on the floor:

The Victorian Grand Ball on November 25 was enjoyable, and what a turnout! My enjoyment was dampened, however when my ankle and foot were stomped on in the polka of the 3rd set.

Continue reading "Dance floor consideration"

Posted by Walter at 08:21 AM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2006

Handouts From Vintage Dance Week

The handouts from the classes at San Diego Vintage Dance Week are on the web in PDF format.

These range from a Regency Era "Scotch Reel" to Ragtime and Jazz Age dances.

Continue reading "Handouts From Vintage Dance Week"

Posted by Walter at 05:50 PM

July 17, 2006

Berkeley Bastille Day Dance

Last Friday, on July 14th, I, my wife Sheila, and our friends Todi and Veronica, attended the "Friday Night Waltz" Bastille Day Dance at the International House by the UC Berkeley campus. It was a fun evening, which drew some interesting contrasts between our Southern California vintage dance culture and that of our Northern cousins.

Continue reading "Berkeley Bastille Day Dance"

Posted by Walter at 07:12 AM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2006

Dance Themed Vacation Tours

This was passed on to me. Some British chap named Ken McFarland is organizing English and Scottish Country Dance tours of Europe, Egypt etc.

I really know nothing about this other than what I see on the website (I can't attest to their quality), but it looked amusing

Posted by Walter at 10:18 AM

May 11, 2006

Vintage Dance Across America

I am frequently asked by folks outside my Area of Operations in Southern California, if there are vintage dance events in their distant neighborhoods.

Here is a list which I just received from Mr. Robert Chapman. While it will, like all such lists, soon become obsolete, I hope that the websites and contacts mentioned in these dated listings might still be of value to people seeking vintage dance close to home, long after the events have passed.

Continue reading "Vintage Dance Across America"

Posted by Walter at 07:20 PM

April 15, 2006

Dance Classes

Since we were mentioned in "Westways" magazine last year, we have have a huge influx of "new blood" into the local vintage dance scene.

Most new folks come in with much enthusiasm, but little experience.

Over the next few months, the Social Daunce Irregulars and the Lively Arts History Association will be putting on some classes which, we hope, will help our new friends join the fun. These include the special waltz series from the SDI, and dance classes in the weeks preceding the Avalon Ball.

For a list of all the dance classes I know about, along with classes related to other stuff like costume, go to

Posted by Walter at 04:27 PM | Comments (2)

April 07, 2006

Men--What to Wear to a Jazz Age Ball

Brothers, you have it pretty easy dressing up for a formal event set in the 20s, 30s or 40s. Men's formal wear hasn't changed much in the last eighty years or so. However, there are some details that make your tux shop stuff into proper historical attire.

Continue reading "Men--What to Wear to a Jazz Age Ball"

Posted by Walter at 09:09 PM | Comments (6)

April 02, 2006

Places to get Victorian Dance Music Recordings

If any of you have ever purchased a CD with a title like "Strauss Waltzes" by, say, the Berlin Philharmonic, you may have discovered that bands focusing on the concert performance of dances don't really play in a way that is congenial for actual dancing. They are too slow or too fast or have muddy unclear tempi, or the tempi change suddenly.

While I am a firm believer in live music, no matter how humble, for your ball--if you are running a dance class, practising at home or listening for pleasure, you need a good recording.

Take heart! There is hope. There are a few bands out there whose CDs are made with dancers in mind.

Continue reading "Places to get Victorian Dance Music Recordings"

Posted by Walter at 03:51 PM | Comments (5)

March 25, 2006

Vintage Dances and Bands

Here are a few thoughts about bands for vintage dance events.

Continue reading "Vintage Dances and Bands"

Posted by Walter at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2006

Newport Vintage Dance Week

This just came to me, and I thought I would share it:

The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers are pleased to announce plans for the 19th Newport Vintage Dance Week, to be held August 14-20, 2006 at the Portsmouth Abbey School in Portsmouth, RI.

Continue reading "Newport Vintage Dance Week"

Posted by Walter at 08:15 AM

March 22, 2006

Vintage Dance Costume Suggestions

The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers have put together a helpful guide to what to wear at Vintage Dances.

It can be found at

Posted by Walter at 07:25 PM

March 14, 2006

Renting a Hall for a Vintage Dance

One of the big challenges in putting on a vintage dance event is finding the right hall. Here are a few thoughts on the topic from someone who has been doing it for a few decades.

Continue reading "Renting a Hall for a Vintage Dance"

Posted by Walter at 12:34 PM

March 11, 2006

Victorian Ball Etiquette

I am going to briefly touch on some ideas for how to behave at a modern "vintage" Victorian Ball, rather than a dissertation on how Victorians behaved at balls in the 19th Century. For that, see The Gentleman's Page

Continue reading "Victorian Ball Etiquette"

Posted by Walter at 03:53 PM | Comments (1)

February 28, 2006

What to Wear to a "Costume Optional" Vintage Dance

Most of the vintage dance events around here say things like "Historical attire suggested but not required" or "..admired but not required". The problem is, what does it mean to someone who doesn't have the historical costume. Sure, it's not required, but what is?

This may vary depending on the event, but with nearly every event, a man in a coat and tie would not be out of place, nor would a woman in a long dress.

An observation made by the Social Daunce Irregulars on their website is that it is best, if you are not currently deeply into historical costumes, to NOT wear a costume to your first event, but take the opportunity to see what others are wearing and also see if you like this vintage dance stuff. It would be an awful shame to spend hundreds of dollars on a costume and (1) see from looking at others that it was a crappy costume or (2) decide that you don't really like this vintage dance thing after all, and you have now flushed hundreds of bucks down the toilet for a costume you will never wear again.

Posted by Walter at 07:35 PM

February 22, 2006

Thoughts on Programming a Victorian Dance

I am frequently asked for suggestions for putting on a vintage dance. Here are some of my thoughts on the elements of a successful program. I realize there are many successful events that don't follow these rules, but this has worked for us.

Good band--live music--n'uf said.

Be wary of dinners. They often cut in to the dancing due to logistics of serving a large group and people taking their time at their meal. Furthermore, even with the best intentions, they can be subject to logistical crises that can hammer your schedule.

Continue reading "Thoughts on Programming a Victorian Dance"

Posted by Walter at 07:18 PM | Comments (4)