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April 23, 2008

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I recently had the opportunity to watch people dance the Umbrella version of this German with a polka playing. Watching the poor young gentleman try to keep the umbrella over the dancing couple was quite amusing. He seemed to enjoy the amusement, himself.

If your group felt especially confident in their dancing, you could do the broom variation with the gentleman sweeping the floor ahead of the couple. It has a certain internal logic, but, again, one would have to be very confident in both the skill of the dancers and the sweeper's ability to stay sufficiently ahead.

Marc:
I thought of that, and almost put it into the post, but after some thought, I decided that while I don't think pre-sweeping is nonperiod in and of itself, the level of interference with the progress of the dancing couple would not be in the general spirit of these games.

I'd think a good dancer would do just as well with the fan or broom or whatever as the couple, and it would become almost a trio.

Thank you for disentangling the German thing; I first read a couple of Alcott novels mentioning Germans when I was about six, and I've never been able to figure out what they were on about. Until now.

Crazy left-field question: any demonstrable connection with such Renaissance oddities as Ballo del Fiore?

I don't think there's a direct and documentable line of descent, but dance games and mixers of various kinds seem to pop up in many different eras - in the Renaissance, there's Ballo del Fiore (flower dance) and the hachas/bransle de la torche (torch or candle dance), which are token mixers where one dancer hands off an item to the next. In the 17th and 18th century there's the infamous cushion dance. The 19th century "German cotillion" (later just called a German), which does seem to have German roots (my earliest source is from 1820 and is in fact German) has lots of variations which involve an object of some kind, though usually it's the consolation "prize" or method of mild humiliation for the dancer who doesn't get a partner.

Good words.

Very interesting, indeed!

Do you know of any dances specifically done by the soldiers in the campgrounds during the Civil War? Are there any basic steps, or anything less formal than the ballroom dances of the time? Finally, what are the most common ballroom dances of the time during the Civil War- specifically the Battle of Gettysburg?

It's hard to imagine that men who are bloody and exhausted would be throwing dances.

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