World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


The Academy of Danse Libre

DANCE ORIGIN: United States, Central Europe
GENRE: Historical Ballroom Dances
First appearance in SF EDF: 2015
The Academy of Danse Libre was founded in 1996 by alumni of the Stanford Vintage Dance Ensemble. Named in the spirit of a quadrille choreographed by students in Paris’s 1840s Latin Quarter, the group is dedicated to the lively exhibition of vintage social dances from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Each dance brings to life a historic period complete with music, dance, dress, and mannerisms of the time. Members have performed in such settings as Paris, Moscow, Prague, and Spoleto, Italy.


DANCE ORIGIN: Central Europe
GENRE: 19th Century Social Dances
TITLE: Polonia; Esmeralda Polka; Schottische Quadrille; Mazurka Sextille
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Polonia: Jaroslaw Wojciechowski, Monica Shen Knotts, Ryan Knotts; Esmeralda Polka: František Bonuš; Schottische Quadrille and Mazurka Sextille: Richard Powers
DANCERS:  Danielle Baiata, John Beale, Derek Chang, Craig Chen, Felicia Estrada, Lucas Garron, Peling Lee, Edoardo Maragliano, Kimber Rudo, Kunal Sahasrabuddhe, Sasha Soykin, David Starke, Laura Hill Temmerman, Maddy Trione, Julie Tsai, Irvin Tyan, Sade Warner, Nerissa Wong-VanHaren, Christina Wright, Jerry Yu
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Christina Galisatus
MUSICIANS: John d’Atri (trumpet), Benjamin deMayo (clarinet), Dan Fan (percussion), Christina Galisatus (piano), Nicole Galisatus (clarinet), Avner Kreps (trombone), Andrew Lan (violin), Levan Lo (violin), Nancy Loomba (flute), Diana Rypkema (bass), Nicole Schiavone (percussion), Ariel Witbeck (cello)

With their trademark vibrancy and elegance, couples from The Academy of Danse Libre swirl and twirl in colorful vests and cravats, tailcoats, bell-shaped gowns, and wrist-length gloves, presenting European Social Dances of the 1840s-1860. The polka, mazurka, and other folk forms expressed the sentiments of the Romantic Era with a new relatively natural ease, while people from the lower classes in distant, oppressed nations faced the realities of expanding colonialism. Appearing on the Paris stage, the forms quickly spread to public dance gardens, where people flocked to watch and learn from off-duty ballerinas dancing with their beaus.

The suite presents:

Polonia, Polish folk dances popular in society ballrooms, including the Krakowiak, from Krakow, popularized in 1839 by Viennese ballerina Fanny Elssler, featuring the galop and holubiec double-heel clicks; and the beautiful Kujawiak, from Kujawy, with couples calmly spinning.

Esmeralda Polka, comprised of polka forms: with a step-close-step-hop pivot in 2/4 time; the Rejdovačka pursuit; and the heel-toe polka. When 1840s Prague dance master Raab brought the Bohemian dance to Paris, polka’s good-natured joyful spinning spurred a “Polkamania” sensation.

Schottische Quadrille, a remnant of Regency-Era set dancing, a country dance in 4/4, with two short runs, a hop, and turning hop steps. In this choreography, running steps are in an open position and turning steps in closed; many variations exist. The Schottische is actually the German Rheinlander dance set to lilting Scottish tunes during Romanticism’s rage for
Scottish poetry and music.

Russian Mazurka Sextille, a reconstruction by dance historian Richard Powers for six partners, from the Russian Mazurka Quadrille for four partners as described in 1856 by Charles Durang. The mazurka is the fast-running Polish mazur, with a driving 3/4 beat. The mid-19th century form had an untamed power, speed, and style. This performance shows coup de talon–heel clicks; the redowa–a leaping waltz with couples flying; and the tiroir pattern, also called drawers, with all the ladies crossing through the center.


GENRE: Ragtime Era Social Dances
Richard Powers (Half and Half, Rio Tango, Down in Zanzibar Maxixe, Too Much Mustard); Joan Walton (1899 National Two-Step Lancers Quadrille, Texas Tommy, The Ragtime Walk); Tapestry Ragtime Dancers (Sans Souci Maxixe); Monica Shen Knotts and Ryan Knotts (Menagerie); Edoardo Maragliano (Echoes from the Snowball Club); Fred Astaire, Adapted by Peling Lee (Waiting for the Robert E. Lee); The Academy of Danse Libre (Animal Dances Demonstration)
Jason Anderson, Valerie Baadh, Lee Bernard, David Chen, Laura Hill, Jeff Kellem, Peling Lee, Edoardo Maragliano, Vincent Mei, Kimber Rudo, David Starke, Val Sinckler, Julie Tsai, Irvin Tyan, Yan Yan Wang, Molly Weiss, Christina Wright, Jerry Yu
Joe Dyke, Richard Powers, David Reffkin
(June 13 & 14): Members of the American Ragtime Ensemble - Richard Duke (bass), Drew Ford (cello), Allison Lovejoy (piano), David Reffkin (violin)
DIRECTOR: David Reffkin

Celebrating the Centenary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, The Academy of Danse Libre presents a suite of early 20th Century American dance to set the historical tone for our festivities at the Palace of Fine Arts. The line-up is a humdinger, with dances ranging from a two-step quadrille to hesitation waltzes, with a smoldering tango thrown into the mix.

Irene and Vernon Castle give us some context about some of these dance styles, from their1914 bestseller Modern Dancing:“The hoidenish romping of the Two Step, and the swift rush of the Polka and contortions of the Turkey Trot have died a natural death because something finer has taken their place.” [the Maxixe]

“The Tango as we dance it now is much modified from the first Argentine... a sublimated form of the Tango, I admit, but still the Tango.

“The Hesitation Waltz has been evolved into a graceful dance seldom equaled... It, too, marks the changing ideas and ideals of the dancers of today. Here in America we are just beginning to wake up to the possibilities of dancing. We are flinging off our lethargy, our feeling of having time for nothing outside of business, and are beginning to take our place among the nationswho enjoy life.”

Stanford dance historian Richard Powers describes the advent of ragtime music in 1890-1900, when rural African Americans combined spirituals and African music with popular American and European forms. Soon, some high-society ballrooms found it “modern” to dance the two-step to ragtime, while less affluent communities developed a menagerie of “animal dances”—Grizzly Bear, Turkey Trot, Bunny Hug, and Camel Walk. In 1912, the slogan, “Everybody’s doing it now!” finally rang true, after Americans Irene and Vernon Castle showcased the dances in Paris.

The ladies dance in dresses with flounced peplums and high waistlines. The sleek split skirt allows movement, and arms are bare or in half-length sleeves. Gentlemen wearthe formal black tailcoat, dancing pumps, white bow tie and vest; and the shocking modern look of ungloved bare hands. 

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