The Academy of Danse Libre
The Academy of Danse Libre was founded in 1996 by Stanford University graduates who had studied vintage dance with Richard Powers. For almost twenty years, Danse Libre has reconstructed popular social dances of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, performing in historic ballrooms in Europe and the United States. The company brings the vivacious atmosphere of the historical ballroom to the modern audience. We entertain and inspire with dances from the Victorian era, Ragtime era, 1920s, and 1930s. All of its pieces are choreographed to period music and performed in period attire.
Ragtime Era Social Dances
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 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.