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Social Dancing in Early Minnesota

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Social Dancing in Early Minnesota

Alternative Title

Here, Everybody Dances: Social Dancing in Early Minnesota


Scholarly yet accessible article, with illustrations, published in Minnesota History magazine, providing a detailed look at social dance in Minnesota in mid-nineteenth century. Also available online. Some excerpts:

"Early in the century, quadrilles had used more complicated steps and patterns such as pigeon-winging—a showy maneuver involving, in part, jumping into the air and striking both legs together—and jigging at the corners. By midcentury those fancy steps, with a few exceptions, had been replaced by simple walking steps. This made quadrilles accessible to dancers of even modest abilities. ...

"Dance cards from Stillwater and St. Paul from the early 1850s through the 1860s show most of the evening at balls given over to quadrilles. Another factor in their popularity, besides the simplified dance steps, was the growing awareness of social class in nominally equality-minded American society. Country-dance formations meant that couples might find themselves dancing with others of markedly lower social class as they moved down the line. A four-couple quadrille, however, meant that floor managers at large balls could place dancers in sets with their social equals. ...

"In addition to quadrilles and polkas and plain waltzes, dance cards of the period show the gradual introduction of newer dances like the mazurka and the redowa. These dances had swept Europe’s ballrooms as new interest blossomed in things eastern European.


Date Created

Spring, 1997

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Item Relations

Item: Farmhouse Fiddlers: Music & Dance Traditional in the Rural Midwest is related to This Item