Re-en­ac­tors give Civil War-era dance lessons

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

RIS­ING SUN — While scores of peo­ple come each year to watch and learn dur­ing the Civil War Week­end held in Vet­er­ans Memo­rial Park, at least one ac­tiv­ity in­vites pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion: the dance.

Re-en­ac­tors and the pub­lic gath­ered in the pic­nic pavil­ion Satur­day night to learn the dances that were pop­u­lar at the time when the na­tion was di­vided. Tom Mack, dance mas­ter with Shenan­doah Val­ley Civil War Era Dancers taught the steps, which Suzanne Mack said were what she re­called from her school years.

Suzanne and Robert Mack came from Ne­wark, Del., to learn the dance steps from Tom, who hap­pens to be their un­cle. She said the steps were very sim­i­lar to the square danc­ing she learned in mid­dle and high school.

“And I re­mem­bered the last dance we did,” she said as she took a break from the Civil War dance lessons. “Funny how that is.”

For oth­ers, the dances were like a for­eign lan­guage with spe­cific pat­terns to look for along with the steps and the di­rec­tion of travel.

“Go­ing over the heads was the hard­est part,” said Gavin John­son, 6, of Ris­ing Sun, who was among the youngest par­tic­i­pants. “The best part was spin­ning around in cir­cles.”

Ris­ing Sun has hosted th­ese Civil War Week­ends on the first week­end in Oc­to­ber for more than two decades. Only one in re­cent mem­ory had to have its date changed be­cause of the weather. In spite of the warm, hu­mid evening as many a dozen peo­ple came to watch or join in the dance.

Each dance had a name, such as “Sol­dier’s Choice.”

“They also did this dance in the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War,” Mack said, in­ter­spers­ing his­tory with each step taught. “Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton did this dance.”

Shenan­doah Val­ley Civil War Era Dancers has raised more than $30,000 since it be­gan in 2012, with the money go­ing to the preservation of his­toric bat­tle­fields.

With mu­sic pro­vided by Kay­dence, a band spe­cial­iz­ing in folk, tra­di­tional and Celtic mu­sic, Mack led the group through sev­eral danc- es in­clud­ing his own cre­ation called “New Mar­ket Cir­cle.”

“I based it on a colo­nial dance called the ‘New Cas­tle Cir­cle,’” he said. “I just tweaked it a bit.”

Kyleigh Clark, 4, kept up with the adults in the cir­cle, dodg­ing hoop skirts and swing­ing or step­ping in the right di­rec­tion.

“This is hard to learn,” the Ris­ing Sun girl said.

This was the fourth year for the Civil War dance and or­ga­niz­ers said they were happy with the pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion.

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Kyleigh Clark, 4, gets some ex­tra help ma­neu­ver­ing through the moves of one of the Civil War dances be­ing taught at Ris­ing Sun Vet­eran’s Memo­rial Park Satur­day night.

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Suzanne Mack sur­prised her­self by re­mem­ber­ing at least one of the Civil War era dances at the Civil War Week­end soiree held Satur­day night.

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