Northwest’s Department of Literature, Language and Writing sponsored an English Country Dance Friday, in the Horace Mann Laboratory School Gym.
This was the University’s 10th annual dance put on by the department. Dance caller Jerome Grisanti instructed participants through the steps of English country dancing.
Jenny Rytting, an associate professor in the Department of Literature, Language and Writing, was the primary faculty sponsor for this event and was excited to put on the 10th installment of this event.
“It was about 10 years ago, give or take, that our department took over this event,” Rytting said. “It was a really fun event that my students that were in a course on Jane Austen thought would be an interesting event to host for students. It is a type of dancing that you see in various novels that came out of the Regency Period in England.”
This event brought together a diverse group of campus and community members together for a night of dancing and getting to know members of the community.
Natalie Coté, a sophomore emergency disaster management major, decided to come with her boyfriend.
“My boyfriend saw it on the Northwest Digest and said that we should go just as a joke,” Coté said. “But I was like we are absolutely going to this event.”
Coté also was inspired by the work of Jane Austen and enjoyed getting to be a modern-day Jane Austen character.
“I am a huge ‘Pride and Prejudice’ fan, so any opportunity to embrace my inner Lizzy Bennett, I’m going to take it,” Coté said. “Seeing people that were dressed up made it even more fun, and while I did not dress up, I might dress up for next year.”
Madison Barben, a sophomore history major, was excited for an evening immersed in history.
“I love Regency England, and Jane Austen and all of that fun stuff,” Barben said. “Music and dancing sounded like a lot of fun and was a great way to do some more country dancing; it was also exciting to do something different and dress up for this event.”
Barben was one of the many people that showed up at the event in quasi-period clothing and was excited to feel a stronger connection to the dances and the music.
“I find the music and outfits involved to be so interesting and then seeing how this dance was created so long ago is still used today,” Barben said. “It was a great way to connect us to the past and learn more about a culture of a completely different time and place.”
Rytting was glad to have this event and bring back Grisanti who first brought the event to their attention.
“Jerome (Grisanti) showed up in our office and asked if my class was interested in hosting a dance,” Rytting said. “So, at that time, it was sponsored by that Jane Austen class, and eventually there was enough interest in it that we just kept it going after that.”
It is common in modern times to have a "caller" who teaches the dance and then calls the figures as the various sets of partners dance.
Grisanti has been the dance caller for the past 10 years and was glad to teach this form of dancing to a new group.
“I have been calling the dances for the last 10 years, and it has always been a fun event for me to do,” Grisanti said. “It is accessible, and the music is just lovely. I’ve got recordings of hundreds of songs and I do not get the chance to dance to them all of the time, so it is nice to have an event where I can dance to some of my favorite music.”
Country dance is any of a very large number of social dances originating in the British Isles. It is the repeated execution of a predefined sequence of figures, carefully designed to fit a fixed length of music, performed by a group of people, usually in couples, in one or more sets.
Barben was appreciative to have someone to teach them the proper dance moves instead of trying to learn the moves themselves.
“Before coming here, I had no idea how to do any form of English country dancing,” Barben said. “So it was really nice to have someone here to tell us how to do the dances, and learning it all together as a group made it less awkward than trying to learn the dance myself.”
On top of learning a new type of dance, Coté enjoyed the opportunity to meet more people on campus and in the Maryville community.
“It has been a great chance to meet people from the campus and from Maryville,” Coté said. “So it is kind of that first step of communication when you are thrown into a new partner that you have never met before.”