If you’ve ever read the works of Jane Austen - or any other 19th century British writer for that matter - you’re probably familiar with one of the largest social customs of the time: formal balls. Of course, the images of women in bright, flowing dresses, men in black topcoats with high collars, and whispered innuendo and gossip isn’t complete without the perfectly timed dance. It’s almost mathematical in its flow - lines of people moving in and out in, synchronized with the music and executing brilliant steps almost effortlessly - and it isn’t just confined to the pages of old books and the big screen. In fact, it’s right here and alive in Louisville and has been for ten years.
In May of 2004, Don and Cathy Corson held the first session of the Louisville English Country Dancers at the Lynnhurst United Church of Christ. They continued once a month, averaging about 10-15 people.
“The one problem,” Don recalls, “is that there wasn’t always a lot of overlap in attendance.” With so many new people each time there was hardly time to do anything but the basics, leaving the regular attendees to repeat the same dances over and over. In English country dancing, each song has a unique series of steps, and so must be learned individually. With any regularity, a dancer can see that the few basic steps are the same, but combining them in more complicated manners is often out of the reach of beginners.
In 2009, the group was asked to help teach and call the ball for the annual Louisville Jane Austen Festival, bringing in several new members. With the influx, the group outgrew the original meeting place, and relocated to Saint Andrews Church in the Highlands, where they continue to dance twice a month.
Next month also marks the ten year anniversary of the Louisville English Country Dancers, and to celebrate, their June 1st dance will be a celebration of ten years, and will feature live music from Louisville’s own Celtic music group Keltricity.
Now averaging between 20 and 25 dancers a session, the Louisville English Country Dancers are going strong into a new decade. The Jane Austen Festival is coming up, and they’ll be running weekly workshops in June and July for those attending the ball, and Don and Cathy are active dancers in several other groups around Louisville. So if you’ve ever clutched a book to your chest and wished you could dance with Mr. Darcy, or if you’ve ever seen Kiera Knightly look all aflutter at a fellow in a starched collar who can dance like a gentleman, come on down and check it out. You can make some new friends and have a great time putting feet to imagination without even leaving town.
Check out Louisville English Country Dancers on the web for a schedule.
Photo courtesy Louisville English Country Dancers.