Ruth Evans
seamstress designer writer dancer researcher earthling  


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Portland Fancy


The dances they were doing
in Lowell in the early days were common throughout New England: contra dances, round dances, quadrilles (squares) and couple dances such as a waltz or schottische.

The caption for the 1874 image shown below claims it depicts a particularly classic contra dance (a dance with a line of men facing a line of women), the Virginia Reel. It's interesting to note, the women not actually performing the current dance figure are busily socializing. Contra dances today have become what some might call aerobic, with everyone moving all the time and barely a pause. Many of the dances listed on the 1857 dance card at the right—Money Musk, Chorus Jig, Hull's Victory, etc.—can still occasionally be seen on dance floors around New England, although there's likely to be some grumbling about all that boring down time for the "inactives"!

Lots more will be appearing here about the dances and their character, assuming Ruth ever finds the time! In the meantime, feel free to take a look at some YouTube videos. Coincidentally, the best looking video Ruth found of Portland Fancy—the most common contra dance in the area during Lowell's early days—happens to have her in it! (Although Ruth's dress is decidedly historically inaccurate; it's a ragtime rehash of a 1960's rummage sale item.)


dance card
Wilson's 1816 Waltz manual


Virginia Reel
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