colonial workshop teaches students what colonial dance was
like and why it was important in colonial society. The students learn a
variety of historically accurate colonial steps and perform
age-appropriate colonial style dances. We come dressed in
costumes, and bring along recorded period music, which reduces the
expense to your school. We are located in Eastern
Massachusetts and would be happy to come to your school or
meeting-place to help introduce your students to this aspect of
the students enter, we explain why they would have wanted to learn to
dance if they lived in colonial times, and why their parents would have
wanted them to learn to dance. We teach an easy colonial-era
step, and follow this with progressively more difficult
Each student then takes another student as a partner, and learns a
dance in colonial style. The dances we teach have been
for 21st century kids from early American dances, require no girl-boy
pairing or hand-holding, and allow the kids to enjoy
The first dance is followed by either another colonial style dance or a
colonial singing game. The workshops take 45-60 minutes each
are done with one class at a time, one after another. There is
usually time for discussion of the nature of 18th century schools, what
18th century children wore, and the manners of the 18th century.
classroom teachers stay with the class and participate in the dancing.
workshop gives students practice in moving to a musical beat, working
in a group, and learning and performing sequences of
By the end of the period, they have learned and performed a
variety of steps and a formation dance, and have learned more about
colonial society and how children of their age lived during the
colonial era. It is a wonderful sight to see 8 and 9 year
with no previous experience, thoroughly enjoying dancing a
“colonial” dance in less than an hour!
We provide teachers with an article about the history of dance, with
bibliography, to encourage classroom discussion.
Revolutionary Dance and Politics
a program with more historical content is preferred, we can teach some
colonial steps and have the group perform a dance using those steps, to
give the experience of dancing cooperatively as was done in the
eighteenth century. We then give an age-appropriate version of
our program on the politics of dance (below). The program
includes information about how Joseph Warren, Samuel Adams, Paul
Revere, and John Hancock interacted with an important dancing master
from Boston named William Turner, who worked with them during and after
the Revolution. For a group that is studying the American
Revolution in greater depth, this program may be more appropriate.
The Politics of Dance
are excited about our new program on American colonial and
Revolutionary history through the politics of dance! We have done
extensive research, and have learned a great deal about how important
dance, and dancing masters, were to the people of colonial America.
society has changed dramatically in the past 240+ years, especially the
ways that people get together and socialize. Instead of meeting over
drinks or dinner or on the golf course, people of various ages
socialized at dancing assemblies – which usually included supper, often
cards and sometimes lasted for many hours, or even days. Young people
flirted and danced, older people chaperoned the younger set, and still
others discussed business.
Some of the most important people of
the time were the people, largely men, who taught dancing (and often
also taught fencing). These dancing masters knew how to teach children
and adults to look respectable and act appropriately at such
assemblies. This knowledge was clearly precious to many folks back then
– and they paid dearly for lessons so that they and their children
could mingle with the wealthy of their towns and villages.
Pike was born in England and later lived in Charleston, South Carolina
and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; William Turner was a colonist in
Boston. Both of them taught dancing in the colonies.
Pike was a staunch Royalist, Turner was a Son of Liberty, and they both
suffered because of their political beliefs. We share primary
sources that reveal the course of their lives, especially their
financial struggles and the political choices they made, to bring
home the reality of what that long-ago war meant to early Americans.