Monday, January 25, 2010

The Dancing Teacher

Sometime between 1866 and 1870, my father, Dr. James Jones Phillips of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, engaged a dancing teacher for his children. Mr. Duggan was a spry, dapper little dark eyed man, a typical dancing master, whose most distinctive feature was the circular little curlicue of hair which stood up so exactly in the middle of the hair line just above his forehead. He came to Mt. Moriah to live while giving dancing lessons, bringing with him his own fiddler, a silent, rather sullen looking man named Argo. My mother, Harriet Amanda Burt Phillips, considered him an excellent violinist whose touch had more expression and sweetness than any other she had ever heard.

The dancing lessons were given at Solitaire, the old school house near the dwelling. The first lesson was a drill in the five rudimentary steps in dancing. Having learned these, we were taught how to go through the figures of the "square dances," which were the "Quadrille" and the "Lancers." We were then taught the round dances, five of them—the waltz, the polka, Schottische, Mazurka, and the Volsooviana (?).

Other neighborhood girls and boys came to the dancing school, among them a little daughter of Mr. Archelas Braswell. She and I were the youngest of the dancing pupils and the teacher would make us dance the Schottische together. It was an ordeal to me, the feeling that I was conspicuous when dancing with a little girl of my own size was embarrassing. I did not feel this embarrassment at all when dancing with the older, nearly grown up girls, and I delighted to go through the figures of the Quadrille.

From that time on through all my boyhood, the summer time dancing picnics were the chief happy diversion of the young people of our neighborhood. These were held sometimes at Tuckahoe on Tar River, but more often at Solitaire. A barbecue would generally be prepared for the occasion and this, supplemented by fried chicken, pies, cakes and pickles, would be spread at dinner time on a rude plank table supported by forked saplings cut in the woods nearby. There was always a barrel or big tub full of iced lemonade around which invariably stood several small boys of apparently unquenchable thirst.

This story was taken from The Memoirs of Walter E. Phillips Mr. Phillips (1860-1939) grew up in Edgecombe County, NC and wrote wonderful stories of his childhood.

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Winter 2001 issue.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that my parents also thought dancing was a good thing for kids to know. There are pictures of my brother and myself, at the dance held at the end of the ballroom dancing class taught yearly in our town, back when I was about 12.