English Country Dance is a return to the past

Emilee Davidson, 13, practices her dance moves with Elaina Phillips, 13, during the 11th annual English Country Dance held March 4, 2016, at Trinity Worship Center in Burlington. / Steven Mantilla, Times-News

By Jordan Carey
Times-News correspondent

    At first glance, the dancers resembled young people at most formal dances with girls in long, flowing dresses and boys in suits and ties.
Then, they began to dance.
Two lines were formed — one for girls and another for boys.
Forget the “Whip, Nae Nae” and bop, these young people were moving to the Virginia Reel, the Spaniard and Yellow Stockings.
More than 100 dancers were part of the Meryton Minuet, an English Country Dance for home-schoolers 13 to 18 years old, which was held March 4 at Trinity Worship Center in Burlington.
As in a square dance, Nancy Bryant “called” the steps such as “set your partner,” “right hand star” and “strip the willow.”
The concept for the dance began 11 years ago after Bryant’s son was invited to a similar dance in Pennsylvania.    During the drive home, “I thought about doing something like this,” and the Pemberley Promenade was born.
The dances and outfits are from the Regency period, which dates from 1811 to 1820. Each year’s dance is named, usually after a place in one of Jane Austen’s novels. Past dances have been named The Brighton Ball and The Rosings Park Promenade.
Students learn dance etiquette, such as choosing a different partner for each dance, and saying “Yes” when asked to dance. The dance is open to all home-schooled students. Many come from Thomasville, Greensboro and Danville. Unlike prom, you don’t go to the dance with a date.
For most dances, the boys will ask one of the girls to dance, but a few of the dances are “ladies choice,” which means ladies ask the gentlemen. Every few dances, there will be a break. During the break, dancers can rest for a few minutes and get water, as the dances are quite tiring.
At the first dance in 2006, there were about 50 kids. Then, Bryant asked the students if they wanted another dance in which they could dress up and it was a resounding “yes.”
Bryant’s favorite part of the dance is seeing all the dancers synchronized. In her opinion, they’re like art. She enjoys seeing all the girls dressed up and thinks the dance is exciting.
“You don’t see this kind of dance a lot, ” she said. Bryant also said that it’s good to have appreciation for different dance and music.
Rebekah Davidson, a 17-year-old home-schooled student, has been going to the dance for five years. Her favorite part about the dance is the type of dances. She also likes how everyone dances together each time.
“I really like how much effort is put into it.”
Davidson said she loves dressing up for the dance and getting to make new friends.

 Jordan Carey is an eighth-grade home-schooler and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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