Re-enactors give Civil War-era dance lessons
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.
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.
Suzanne Mack surprised herself by remembering at least one of the Civil War era dances at the Civil War Weekend soiree held Saturday night.