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Dance Fever! Washington and Antoinette period dance, Minuet, hits Severna Park starting Sunday


The late 18th Century is coming back to Anne Arundel County for just a little while, with a Minuet lesson Sunday and a formal ball in November.

There will be a Minuet lesson this Sunday in Severna Park, 4 p.m. at Typhrodisia’s Belly Dance and Beyond Studio 820 Ritchie Highway Suite 200, in Severna Park. Those who want to learn how to get their groove on in the late 18h Century are welcome to attend. The price for the 45-minute lesson is $40.

The Marie Antoinette Ball that will be taking place November 6 at 6 p.m at the Severna Park Community Center, requires costume, and will run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., costing $75. There will be a short minuet lesson too during the ball, but this Sunday’s lesson is more detailed, studio owner Typhrodisia said.

“I fell in love with it,” she said regarding the Elizabethan dance style. “It kind of transports you back in time. I’ve been planning this for maybe six months. I just hope everybody has as much fun as I plan too.”

Sunday lesson will be taught by dance instructor Jim Wass.

“The Minuet was a show piece,” he said. “If you think of (it as) a couple taking the floor, often an honored couple.”

Dancers trace a Z-pattern in a six count, he said. The full dance can take a couple two to three minutes.

“It’s kind of a Waltz,” Wass said. “If someone can dance the waltz, Texas Two Step, or Foxtrot they can learn the Minuet.”

Many of our Founding Fathers likely danced the Minuet at social gatherings and parties. According to Wass, it seems to have passed between multiple levels of society both here in the Colonies and in Europe. It was likely danced in both rural and urban settings, he believed.

Washington getting jiggy with it

President George Washington was a big fan of dance supposedly, and he is likely to have been an enthusiastic participant in the Minuet.

“George is said to have been a very big fan of dance and liked to show his stuff,” Wass said.

There are social elements to formal dance that were important to society then as well as today, Wass confirmed, such as courtesies and cooperation, and with hand-holding, even courtship. Flirting was common.

At a dance it was “well expected”, Wass said, that you were going to dance with several partners. But protocol was that you always danced the first and last dance of the night with the person you arrived with.

“The prettiest girls get asked to dance first,” he said. “The best dancers get asked to dance the most.”

Wass’s wife, Ann Wass, has a PhD in costume and textile history and is retired from the Riversdale House Museum in Riverdale, Maryland.

She supposed some folks may have used the occasions as a chance to climb socially back then, especially as the period advanced and some of the populace became more established. But for the most part the dances were just a chance to have fun.

“A party then is a party now,” she said.

The formal balls would usually include a ball dinner in the late afternoon, and perhaps a lighter ball dinner in the late evening. The Marie Antoinette Ball may include light refreshments.

Dress for such dances can be somewhat involved, especially for the women attending. The dresses come in pieces, and require corsets, panniers to display the dress and sometimes a wire cage to display the hair.

“Who doesn’t like to dress up?” Typhrodisia asked.

For the November ball in Severna Park, those attending the dance will not be allowed in if they are not in period dress, she said. Although it might take you a couple hours to get in full garb and appearance for the dance, the price for the dress and accompanying materials isn’t tremendous, running maybe $60 to $100 for a dress alone.

“You can get them off Amazon and tweek them yourself,” she said. “It takes a while to get ready, but it’s worth it.”

Typhrodisia has gotten a strong response from those on her email list regarding the upcoming lesson and dance, but tickets for both events remain available as of the time of publishing. Participants are also free to contact her about proper dress attire.

“If they have any questions about what is correct or not they can email or Facebook Message me,” she said. “ A lot of them have sent pictures (and asked) ‘Is this OK?’.”

Her plans for the ball were an outgrowth of plans to go to Versailles in France for their annual ball last year, But plans were canceled due to the pandemic. Instead, the Severna Park community center gets to become a palace for a night on November 4th.

Unfortunately though, Marie Antoinette can’t make it.

“Marie Antoinette got her head chopped off,” Typhrodisia said. “I’m sure I’d have had my head chopped off (too), I’m an independent woman. I don’t take a lot of crap.”