World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


The Academy of Danse Libre

DANCE ORIGIN: United States
Historical Ballroom Dances
Kimber Rudo, Irvin Tyan
First appearance in SF EDF:

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.


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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