Fred --

Well, maybe, but I don't think your explanation generalizes terribly well.  Wilson (1811, UK) lists promenade and allemande (but not Dos a Dos) in his list of dance figures.  There was a lively interchange between French and English dancing masters going back to at least 1700, when Mr. Essex had Feuillet's "Recuil de Contradances" translated and published in England.  Colonial Americans had music and dance books shipped from England.

English dance had French terms in it.  American dance pretty much *was* English dance until after the war of 1812.  Quadrilles originated in France and spread everywhere.  I don't think the question of how French terms got into American dance is a mystery.

-- Alan

On Jun 25, 2017, at 7:23 AM, Fred Feild [trad-dance-callers] <> wrote:

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.

Fred Feild

Reply via web post Reply to sender Reply to group Start a New Topic Messages in this topic (1)

Have you tried the highest rated email app?
With 4.5 stars in iTunes, the Yahoo Mail app is the highest rated email app on the market. What are you waiting for? Now you can access all your inboxes (Gmail, Outlook, AOL and more) in one place. Never delete an email again with 1000GB of free cloud storage.

The Traditional Dance Callers List: Subscribe by sending a blank e-mail message (no subject, no message) to: