Victorian Dancing in a Modern World

Dancers in period clothing

Arlington House Victorian Dance Society Performing at a site event.

NPS Photo

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The Arlington House Victorian Dance Society is an award winning group that is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and technique of Victorian Dance from the Civil War Era.It is not only a beautiful art form, but is also a tangible connection to the Historic Period that Arlington House interprets. The Group is a corps of volunteers, most of whom started as mansion docents at Arlington House with an initial interest in the history of the site and time period that evolved into a specific interest in dance from the time period.Its genesis came from a need to develop programing in the house during a period of structure restoration that left Arlington House barren of its usual collection of historic furnishings for more than five years. The large empty rooms were an ideal setup for the style of dance that would have likely been performed in the house during its historic period. The first programs were lead by an outside Victoria Dance group, but it was immediately evident that Victorian dance belonged in the house and as part of the park regular programing. Shortly after these first programs volunteers that had participated began to form a dance group based in the park it has now grown in size and influence. Over the past few years the skill of the dancers has increase from doing basic dance demonstrations to more complex capabilities. Now the group conducts demonstrations and educational performance that also involve the audience giving them a chance to experience the rhythm and walk in the steps of a largely forgotten art.This experience gives the visitor a unique opportunity to take part in an activity that was an integral part of life 150 years ago. The group has also expanded its outreach by conducting demonstrations off site at a variety of locations including other National Park sites around the region. As more people have become aware of the program the appeal of the group has grown. With hopes of becoming a widely recognized Victorian Dance group.They took a big step towards that goal when they received the Regional Hartzog Award for Volunteering which gave the group much deserved recognition for its efforts. The demonstrations always go beyond simple movements of the dance to the history of dance for the period and the customs of the day that made dance such an important part of life back them.Ultimately, program could be developed to have a more developed student education component that can be integrated with our long lived education program with the 4th grades classes of the local elementary schools.There is also a hope to upload videos of the group's demonstrations to the parks website.