Sarah Beth Costello
March 10, 2009
It was a night of elegance and perfect manners.
The room was full of Mr. Darcies, Mr. Binglies, Elizabeth & Jane Bennets and even a couple of Emmas. The fiddle, fife and flute ensemble coming from a nearby sound system kept the young ladies and gentlemen in constant dancing mode.
The young men escorted their lady partners onto the dance floor, and the room was filled with the sounds of laughter, the instructions from the step-caller, and the gentle swashing of yards of colorful fabric.
Adolescent members of Alamance County Christian Home Educators gathered Friday for an evening of old-fashioned fun at the fourth annual English Country Dance. This year’s theme was “The Rosings Park Promenade,” based on Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride & Prejudice.”
HYPE AND ANTICIPATION
This event is widely anticipated by participants. Many girls make their own dresses and some even create their own patterns. The English Country Dance is similar to a prom, except girls don’t spend hundreds of dollars on dresses, hair and makeup, most boys don’t rent tuxes and no one comes with a date.
But the evening is a time for dancing and merriment, dressing up, curling hair, powdering cheeks, slipping on dainty, white gloves, donning a top hat and tying a bow tie.
“I like it because it’s the older style of dancing,” said eighth grader, Will Van Deventer, “I like the music too because it’s more elegant and graceful. I really appreciate that it’s a fun atmosphere.”
The dancers go all out when it comes to this evening, determined to make it as authentic as possible. Authenticating the dance means abiding by the original rules that would have been followed in Jane Austen’s day. Young men must be noble gentlemen and ask the ladies to dance.
“I like that the guys have to ask different girls to dance,” said Brittany Wooten, a homeschooled high school student.
There were, however, a couple of Sadie Hawkins dances that allowed the ladies to seek out partners. To ensure that every attendee has equal opportunity on the dance floor, couples can only dance once with the same partner.
For three hours, teenaged homeschoolers sashayed up and down the floor to old fashioned dances such as “Yellow Stocking,” “Do-Si-Do” and “Strip the Willow.” The dances are similar to western square dances, except couples dance in one long line, with girls on one side and boys on the other.
The couples dance within squares of four, gradually making their way towards the end of the line. Once a couple reaches the end of the line, they must sit out for one turn. Nancy Bryant, step-caller and homeschool science teacher, has dubbed this short waiting period as “crystalizing.”
Nancy Bryant is a past homeschool mother who has been calling the dance steps for the past four years. “What happened was [my son] was invited to Pennsylvania for a dance like this and I had to take him,” said Bryant in explanation of the origins of the annual dance for ACCHE members. Bryant enjoyed the English style dancing so much she decided to introduce it to the homeschool group.
Click Here for more photos from the dance