July 27, 2011

Easy English Colonial Dance: The Hessian, Dance Diagram and Music

A Hessian Soldier 
 This is a part of a program that a friend and I have been putting together for work. We will be teaching a colonial dance: "The Hessian."

Hessian soldiers were German soldiers who were hired out by their government to England. They were known as "Hessians" because many of them came from the state of Hesse-Kassel. England stationed these soldiers in America to keep the peace and later to fight the Patriots in the Revolutionary War. They were known for their brutal killing techniques and weaponry. 

 There is a grievance about them in the Declaration of Independence: "He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation."   


The Hessian is a very simple dance so anyone can do it. Colonial dances were set to a particular tune, normally of the same name as is true with this one. Below is a music clip and the instructions for the dance. In the diagram, circles represent the men and squares represent the ladies. This type of dance could be danced in groups of four or with numerous groups of four, lined up in lines.The partners travel through the dances and eventually dance with every other couple. Keep in mind, if you are dancing in a line, one or more couples may be "out" during a rotation, but they will soon be back in. 



Step 1: This is the starting position of the dance. The men are on one side of the line and the women are on the other. The men are facing the women. 

Step 2: The first gentleman offers the second lady his right hand and they make a complete turn and return to their starting positions.

Step 3: The second gentleman offers the first lady his right hand and they make a complete turn and return to their starting positions.

Step 4: The first gentleman stretches his right arm across to the second lady who does the same. Simultaneously, the second gentleman stretches his right arm across to the first lady’s. From above, the arms will form a cross. Together, everyone turns in a circle to the right. (From above the figure will look like spokes of a wheel turning.) 

Step 5: The first gentleman stretches his left arm across to the second lady who does the same. Simultaneously, the second gentleman stretches his left arm across to the first lady’s. From above, the arms will form a cross. Together, everyone turns in a circle to the left until back in starting positions.

Step 6:  The first gentleman will offer his right hand to the first lady, who will do the same. They turn in a circle to the right one time. The first gentleman should be in the first lady’s starting position and the first lady should be in the second gentleman’s starting position.

Step 7: The first gentleman and the first lady turn to the outside of the group and walk down behind the second couple. When the first couple gets 75% of the way down, the second gentleman offers his right hand to take the second lady’s right hand and leads her one step to the front. The first couple takes the position that the second couple has just vacated. 

Step 8: The first gentleman will offer the first lady, both hands and they will make one right turn so that both the gentleman and the lady are on the side that they started on. 

Step 9: While not a physical step, the couples change numbers. The first couple becomes the second couple and the second couple becomes the first couple and the dance is repeated until the song ends.

Please watch the video to hear a pretty boring rendition of the music. Imagine the melody played on the harpsichord or by an orchestra.  
 

8 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I found you via The Thrifty Reenactor blog.

    My friend calls for a home school family dance group in MT. I think there are over 20 families participating now. She's always looking for new dances to teach the group. I'll be sending your link today. Thanks again!

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  2. Thanks Heidi, for your kind comment. This is a very simple dance that we were doing with younger kids. I hope it helps.

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  3. Sophia, I was lucky that I got to try it today with some kids at a historical summer camp. It was very fun. I had never tried calling before and wasn't too bad. :D

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  4. Thanks for this, I tried it with my 18th century dance group. It was great!

    A little more historical information on Hessians:
    "They were known for their brutal killing techniques and weaponry."

    Actually, the Hessians, being members of professional armies, were some of the "best behaved" troops in the war! Most were issued the same type of weaponry used by the British and Americans. Being a princely European army, every man was issued a sword as well, but this was for show only and not used.

    The portrayal of Hessians as vicious, brutal mercenaries is a remnant from an 18th century propaganda campaign directed against them, even going so far as to claim they would eat children (keep in mind that in the 18th century, information was not as readily available, and many people actually believed these claims!) Their moustaches and long hair, as seen in your photo of the reenactor, added to the scary foreign effect as well.

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