Dance and music educator Jennifer Rose explains the history of The Lancers Quadrille, including the origin of the dance and why it was popular in Civil War-era America. She also discusses the movements and sets of the dance.
About The Lancers Quadrille
The Lancers is an example of a quadrille, a type of dance fashionable in the 19th century. Danced by four couples in a square formation, quadrilles were based on the cooperative execution of intertwining figures. Each of the dance’s sections was danced with prescribed combinations of figures.
Though popular in the Civil War era in America, The Lancers actually dates to earlier in the 19th century, perhaps before that. The first reference to the dance appeared around 1817 to 1820. Most likely the dance came from England, but the dance was danced around the world. France, in fact, is credited with many of the quadrilles.
The full dance consists of five different figures; the last figure is also called The Lancers. Like many dances of the period, the dance provided opportunities for couples to socialize and flirt with members of the opposite sex through short and long bows, star figures that allow contact between non-partners, and extended face-to-face interactions.
The Lancers is an elegant form of the quadrille, with a great deal of lovely symmetry in movement, as well as moves designed to accentuate the long, sweeping skirts that ladies wore. The dance remained popular in the United States until well into the 1900s. In 1865, in London, at an anniversary commemorating the United States’ Declaration of Independence, the entire dance, all five figures, was performed on horseback.
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