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Time machine 1812: Dancing in the lantern-light

If you’ve met me in person, you know how much I hate the cold.

I like socks. I love coats. I adore blankets, gloves and hats. I’m best friends with my scarf. But surrounded by all these bosom buddies, I’m still a pitiful mess if subjected to temperatures below about 58 degrees.

So what do I do when it’s cold outside at a reenactment? Well, my usual go-to solutions are out. (They’re all made of non-period-correct materials in non-period-correct patterns using non-period-correct machine stitching.) So I wear an old wool tablecloth that doubles nicely as a wrap/shawl thing. It’s adequate, but not ideal, to be sure.

So at the reenactment’s evening dance, I was happy to be someplace – at last! – where the heat was trapped enough to provide about 68  degrees of temperature.

And then the dancing began. I was supremely happy to be almost sweating.

So you know how guys are always reluctant to get up and ask a girl to dance? Apparently that transcends time. But one of my cousins did decide he’d ask… me. OK, maybe not the most intimidating of tasks, but he’s an introvert! We’ll work him up to asking non-relatives eventually.

We danced these circle dances first. that just means each couple is part of a circle, somehow, and through an inexplicable series of steps makes its way around the circle and back to the beginning position… or close to it. That is, if the inexplicable steps are made halfway intelligible by the “caller,” or the person up front who’s telling you what to do.

Then there were square dances. You’ve probably watched square dancing at a county fair, or at least seen YouTube videos of it. If not, go watch some square dancing. Like this:

This is what nerds consider fun.

So, lots of that happened, too. I participated in much of the dancing, but as always, gals outnumbered the guys, so some of the time I was a “guy” myself for a little girl accompanying my reenacting family.

Hey, at least I wasn’t getting hit on by 15-year-old reenactors. My poor cousin must’ve looked at least three years younger than she really is.

My newly-made red dress positively glowed in the dim lantern-light, an effect I was highly pleased with.

The final dance of the night was the “broom dance.” At first I declined to participate, since I had no partner, but another acquaintance urged me to get on up there, and so I did. Only then did I learn exactly how a broom dance worked.

There’s no YouTube video to assist me here, so simply imagine a long line of women on one side of an aisle, and on the other side a line of men; everyone is facing the front of the room, as if they were lined up to march two-by-two out of Noah’s Ark.

Except, where the ark’s door would be, there are three hay bales. The head of the men’s line takes the middle seat, and then the first two ladies sit on either side.

A broom magically appears in the man’s hand. (OK, so he was given it before he sat down. Whatever.) He’s supposed to hand it to whichever lady he doesn’t care to dance with, while then taking the other lady’s hand and promenading down the aisle until they each reach the end of their respective lines.

The poor lady stuck with the broom moves to the middle seat – and to make amends for her rejection, she’s given the privilege of choosing which of two men she’ll promenade down the aisle with. The two heads of the men’s line sit on either side, and just as the first man handed her the broom, so she must hand another the broom before promenading down. Then that poor man gets the same recompense.

And so it goes until everyone is tired, laughing and full of cheer. (They saw a little girl toss the broom to the next woman in line, choosing a third option: Go down the line with both. The two boys she went down with actually picked her up and ran down the aisle carrying her. I think she ended up a little frightened.)


Abby said…
Mark didn't go, right? Thus you danced with John?
Sarah said…
Precisely. :P Which was a lot of fun, actually; he knew what he was doing.

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