How did French prompts like Promenade, Allemande, and Dos-a-Dos get into American dancing?
From Morrison Foster (Stephen's older brother): "When Stephen was a child, my father had a mulatto bound girl named Olivia Pise, the illegitimate daughter of a West Indian Frenchman, who taught dancing to the upper circles of Pittsburgh society early in the nineteenth century. "Lieve," as she was called, was a devout Christian and a member of a church of shouting colored people. the little boy was fond of their singing and boisterous devotions. She was permitted to often take Stephen to church with her . . . . A number of strains heard there, and which, he said to me, were too good to be lost, have been preserved by him, short scraps of which were incorporated in two of his songs, "Hard Times Come Again No More" and "Oh, Boys, Carry Me 'Long.""
This passage was taken from Biography, Songs and Musical Compositions of Stephen C. Foster, published privately by his brother in 1896.
It seems clear that French holdings in the West Indies had less suppressive relations between plantation owner and slave than in the U.S. There would have been many opportunities for Africans to imitate and emulate French dancing (imitation such as this also occurred later in the cakewalk). It would have been necessary in that culture. As there were many African languages present, French would have been used for this invention of prompting as it was the common tongue there.
After the Haitian Revolution which started in 1791 some of these Creoles migrated to the states, mostly to New Orleans at first. They had middle and upper class status during the French and Spanish periods until the Louisiana Purchase brought U.S. attitudes there. In that early period French would have been used in dancing.
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