For several weeks Monterey Hills School’s 5th graders have been studying Colonial society and customs. As part of this study, the students learned several traditional ball dances.
The students dances three traditional Colonial dances including “Hole in the Wall”, “Gathering Peascods”, and “Hunt the Squirrel”.
During the Colonial Ball performance students cited primary sources and documentary evidence such as Lord Chesterfield’s “Letters to His Son” and John Playford’s “The English Dancing Master”. Students demonstrated and describes how fans were used to communicate as well as how to pay courtesies and respects to one another.
As young ladies were always accompanied by a chaperone, they would use the various coded messages using their fans to communicate to their prospective suitors. The fan demonstration elicited giggles from the audience as the young ladies showed how opening the fans in various ways represented things such as “yes I want to talk” or “I would like to dance with you” as well as what time to meet.
The students explained that Virginians loved to dance and in places like Williamsburg, balls were held in honor of kings and queens’ birthdays, weddings, during the 12 nights of Christmas and later to commemorate Revolutionary Wars, victories, and George Washington’s birthday. They would often take place at the Governor’s palace or in a local tavern. Smaller balls were often held at plantation homes where furniture would be removed from the front rooms to make way for the dancing.
The 5th graders proceeded to act out a Colonial Ball in full costume for delighted parents and friends.