The doors of the magnificent social hall of St. John's Methodist Church opened, and dancers in elegant costumes rushed into the room, moving quickly and gracefully across the shining floor. They were dressed in period costumes, representing various styles of the past three centuries. Women cleverly groomed and men in striped stockings and "knickers" tied at the knee. All moving together in choreographed rhythm that we have seen in the movies "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma," ballet-like movements portraying a culture long gone on the dance floors of today.
One is fortunate to live in a place where dedicated dance historians gather to not only preserve these wonderful routines but also to have a good time dancing and hearing the beautiful tunes. Titles like "Hole in the Wall," "Red House" and "Mr. Isaac's Maggot" are but three of many that tell a simple story set to a rhythm that invites dancing.
In 2006, Cindy Jentz and Martha Macdonald founded the Red Hills English Country Dance Society, which has been a welcome gift to the community. The dancers gladly give time, hard work and dedication, and through those efforts, they have become well known in the tri-county area.
Cindy and Martha work together, contributing to the choreography, music selection and other facets of entertainment that the public will enjoy. Their routines offer three or four selections of various tunes and rhythms, and at the end of the presentation, some in the audience will join the troop and learn the simple steps that make up this form of dancing.
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That night in St. John's Center, ladies and gentlemen, some young and some not so young, stepped forward and learned the ways of English county dancing. They stood with partners and mastered the basic steps; one, two, three and hop. They were guided by Scott and Linda Starnad from Waxhaw, Andrew Vorder Bruegge from Winthrop University and his wife Donna, Roy Gugel, a seasoned dancer, and Martha and Cindy.
The new dancers were taught the way the line moved; partners were exchanged by the advance of one to the next, but the step remained the same. One, two, three, hop; the only change being the rhythm of the music. They either danced slower or more quickly, smiling, laughing and counting aloud -- one, two, three, hop.
Soon even the counting stopped and the whole room was dancing in a professional manner. There were times when faces were wreathed in profound concentration, but as they quickly mastered the routine, a look of absolute joy took over. They danced to lovely period music with Cindy calling the figures.
Many of the dancers are re-enactors from Historic Brattonsville, so it is quite natural for them to join in offering and preserving these magic moments of 17th, 18th and 19th centuries when men and women of all social strata joined in the ranks of country dancers. From these gracious steps, all other types of our country dancing evolved. The square, the contra and, in part, even the reel are three that swept across colonial America, almost all deriving from the famous one, two, three, hop.
Then, no doubt, the non-specific"flat foot" entered into the dance history of southern mountain people. They moved only their feet with the body held in a rigid position. Soon groups were formed and the dancers changed from that flat-footed expression to one of fast-moving feet and costumes designed to show off their footwork.
To write about dancing, it is necessary to tell you about the programs at St. John's. The men and women have moved forward, and the one, two, three, hop has been added to, enlarged upon and made international. Starting in September and running through May, the members and guests will be treated to four-week dance programs that will include, rumba, tango, polka, samba, shag, two step and even the graceful and glorious Viennese Waltz. Married couples and single persons will be more than welcome; there will be partners for all. The cost is a one-time small donation made in the beginning to cover the dance session. The next dance will be on Oct. 11 with the band, The Professionals. All money from the dance program goes to the children and youth building project. For additional information call Pat Grant, 980-4000.
Dancing is healthy; it is certainly more enjoyable than walking on a treadmill. When you dance, smiling and laughter are a major part of the routine, so all of our muscles are used and our good humor is cajoled. Just think, after a tantalizing samba, your whole attitude will change and possibly you will speak a little Spanish -- with rhythm.