Notes for Good Reading on the Veranda...
Ladies & Gentlemen of Old Virginia...
New Friends & Old...
I would like to take time to write a note of thanks and
appreciation for your participation in the first of what we hope shall be many
We Make history events to be held in Virginia.
The Old Virginia Ball was a "smashing success" to quote
one participant and the smiles I saw as I gazed about the room certainly
support such an ambitious declaration.
There was indeed a sweet spirit evident and our Virginia
friends showed that they are quick learners indeed when it comes to 19th
Could this ease be a genetic pre-disposition? A
biological "memory" of the dancing of those who went before you? More
experimentation and observation - much more - will happily be necessary. ;o)
Among our many tasks now that we have just returned to
the West will be to edit and post photos from the Ball. We'll let you know
when they are up!
We would like to return this Fall to hold another Ball
and it has been decided to continue this next time with our mid-nineteenth
century theme, utilizing our new veterans and bringing in many more novices to
learn, enjoy and smile as well. :o)
Please do send us a polite note to us sharing your
favourite memories and highlights of the Old Virginia Ball. We so enjoy
reading them and may post a few.
And here are several ways you can help us prepare for the
1. Pray for us as step by step we expand the ministry to
the East Coast.
2. If you know of good potential
locations for Historic Balls let us know and we will check them out.
3. We will be seeking a place in Virginia to base out of
so that we may more effectively build We Make History in the area staying
sometimes for several weeks or several months at a time to do so.
4. Learn more about us!
More? But of course...
Among our many plans are to build our Christian-values,
family-based historical reenacting groups in Virginia. Entire families very
much enjoy participating but they are perhaps especially helpful for men and
young men as they learn valuable character-building lessons together.
Currently we portray Continental soldiers of George
Washington's Army and the 1st Virginia Infantry (a "gentlemen's regiment") of
the War Between the States.
We are intent upon building each in the Virginia area to
participate along with our large Arizona group when we travel to the East but
will be beginning with the 1st Virginia. Our 1st Virginia Infantry is
nationally known with a superb reputation. We are the only western based Civil
War reenacting group that is invited to many of the better eastern events. We
will be looking for local recruits and will come out to train them. See our
Please respond with interest
your humble servant
in the cause of
and character building
Lord Scott of We Make History
Dear Lord Scott,
I would like to thank you for hosting the Old Virginia Ball. The ball was a
capitol success, and I look forward with anticipation to the next ball.
Tomorrow would not be too soon.
If I can ever help with anything please let me know.
Could you put my on the contact list for your newsletters please?
Round Hill, Virginia
My husband Captain Beaty and our daughter Mahaley very
much enjoyed the first Old Virginia Ball and would be excited to hear of a
We look forward to participating in future events in our
The Beaty Family
Dear Lord & Lady Scott,
Yes, April has been quite a month. I loved the Old
Virginia Ball—by the way, it was on my dad’s birthday. I just wanted to tell
you how much I enjoyed the ball. This was my first ball ever. I had so much
fun! How I wish the social dancing they do nowadays were like the Virginia
Reel and the other dances we did at the ball! I’m still singing the tunes from
the ball and if you do one in Purcellville again, I will come!
(a.k.a. Stephanie S.)
Our small group has generated much anticipation among our friends for the
Newcomers In Old
We Make History
first-ever ball on the East Coast and shows a hall full of enthusiastic guests
how it's done in Old Virginia.
related by Private Francis of the
1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry.
have Yankees tonight," I observe. Officers in blue arrive to add some balance.
"Usually it's the opposite. We have more Confederates than Federals."
Reassurance is my weapon. I carry it in lieu of a rifle as I greet the
families strolling into the comfortably-sized hall with the wooden floors.
Some gentlemen are in uniform while others enter in modern-day suits with
their ladies in hoopskirts. The room blooms with color like a Virginia garden
"Private Francis!" my Captain calls. "Why haven't you offered to pose with
this lady for a picture?"
Shouldn't she make that offer? I think as I catch a smile from
the young lady in the deep blue gown before me, among the first to arrive.
Is she not beautiful enough to stand on her own? Yet I follow orders.
"I have a hard time remembering names," I disclaim to a family. "So I may very
well just say to you Sir, Madam or My Lady."
Some are familiar with English Country Dance. Other say, or I deduce from
their voices: "I've never done this before."
"Do not fret," I respond. "You're in for a wonderful evening. The dances we
are going to be doing are very simple, much less fancy than 18th Century
dancing. We teach as we go. And if you mess up, just dance on."
"I'm not a good dancer," one tells me.
"All you have to do is walk. If you can walk, you can dance. And we're going
to prove it to you."
Our Captain takes the rank of Dance Captain to call and demonstrate a few
basic steps: how to honor your partner, how to turn your partner, how to do-si-do,
how to form a star, how to sashay -- and most importantly, why the gentleman
always stands to the lady's left. The arrangement hearkens back to a more
chivalrous time, when men carried swords on their left hips to protect from
attack. If the lady is standing in the wrong place...
"Ohhhh!" the Captain's lady demonstrates as a mock sword is drawn.
"Did I tear your dress?" her partner inquires.
A few example couples practice the simple steps, but the rest won't try them
just yet. We begin as always with a welcoming promenade, couples lining up
behind the captain in a march about the hall progressing into a long snaking
line of ladies and gentlemen with the. The Captain maneuvers them into a
spiral and then out again, obviously drawing inspiration from Stonewall
Jackson's flanking march at Chancellorsville.
Back in a circle, he pays tribute to various guests, inviting them to walk
forward and back.
"Those wearing blue!"
"Those wearing gray!"
I walk out during both calls, mistakenly, but with good reason. The 1st
Virginia wears both blue and gray on their uniforms. But nobody minds.
We dance on.
"Those under 20!"
"Those over 20!"
The perfection of arrangements reveals itself. At many a dance, the hall can
barely contain a huge circle of guests. This time things fit perfectly. Even
without a microphone, our Captain's voice carries across the room even though
he must project. Our four-piece band -- banjo, fiddle, guitar and flute --
navigates through technical hurdles with laudable dexterity. The leader even
adds historical notes on each song they play.
A mixer follows, and now the guests show what they have learned -- circling
and do-si-doing and two-hand turning their partners before flowing into a
promenade about the room.
"The other way," I suggest to a couple behind me as we learn the promenade
step. They face clockwise. My partner and myself face the opposite direction.
Then I look about and find -- to mild embarrassment -- my lady and I are
actually the ones facing the wrong direction. Three years of experience on the
floor and I still need correction. But we dance on.
"Now wasn't that simple!" our Dance Captain observes, constantly reassuring,
constantly encouraging his troops.
Our guests master the basic steps. Now comes the dance that will elevate their
skills to the next level -- reeling. The Virginia Reel will follow soon
enough, but our Dance Captain starts with a set dance that incorporates the
reel with only a few other moves. As I expect, I am asked to head one of three
sets. I cannot fail here. The danger in reels sprouts from logistics: the head
couple must swing around exactly one and a half turns. Then that couple
works their way down the line, taking turns swinging someone of opposite
gender and then swinging themselves until they get to the bottom. Forget about
that extra half turn, and men come face to face with men, and ladies with
ladies. Couples hurriedly cross back to the proper side of the line, hastily
swinging to get back in time with the music. Some forget to swing their
partner again. Some accidentally skip someone down the line.
The newcomers, however, learn fast. They working through the pattern slowly
under the Captain's guidance. A few collisions and misplacements arise, but he
is rooting for everyone: "Cheer them on, folks!" They soon reel like they have
danced all their lives, and I am not surprised. Our guests may come from
Arizona, Texas, Kentucky and Maryland as well as Virginia, but they all dance
like Virginians. Clouds of doubt and uncertainty dissipate with each reel down
the line. The smiles break through. The warmth of fellowship and joy of the
ball is rooting itself within them. I know it well.
It gives all of us confidence as we try something new: a unique circle mixer
called Borrowdale Exchange, and the meaning of the name emerges as three
couples in a circle join together in a six-handed star and then loose
themselves one couple at a time into a freestyle promenade. Dancers weave
about like traders in a stock exchange before the call to reform into circle
"It's an exchange. It's crowded," I say to my partner as we promenade our way
out of congestion on the floor and into a new set. Undoubtedly couples find
themselves abandoned or try to join full sets. The Dance Captain indulges
them, letting them try sets of six.
We approach the limits of physical dexterity. Right-hand stars, even with
hands held high, simply cannot form with the limits of our reach and the
available space among 12 bodies. Children disappear in a huddle of dancers.
Couples lose sight of their hands. Walking slows to a tiptoe as foot space
vanishes, but everyone joyfully reaches in to preserve the figure and clasp to
whatever fingers they can touch. Then couples peel off into the promenade,
laughing as they reform into the way they were.
The band plays a waltz and I seek a partner among the newcomers. "I'm not much
of a waltzer," I warn to the lady in blue. I have warned that to ladies for
three years now, thinking my simple two-step plain and ordinary among the
patterned grace of the 1st Virginia belles. One of those belles shows me a box
step -- yet again -- during the evening, but my feet slip back into their
two-step pattern. They prefer it that way, as do my eyes, wanting to focus on
the countenance of the elegant and graceful young woman before me.
Her eyes dart about and she giggles a little.
What? I wonder. Am I too serious? Not smiling enough? Dragging my
feet? Do I have something on my mouth from the last break for refreshments?
But I don't ask. We dance on.
Later, I hear some reassurance: "They tell me you're the best dancer."
"They do me too much credit," I say. "Who says?"
She grins and chuckles, but does not reveal her source. I know it has to be
one of the Arizona contingent -- my brothers and sisters in Christ, dance, and
history. How can somebody think that when they've seen me waltz?
Our guests are warmed up and confident. "Are you enjoying yourselves?" I ask
during another break for refreshments, but the answer is obvious. It's time
for the Virginia Reel.
Once again, the glorious burden falls upon me to head up a set, although our
newcomers are learning fast. Once you master the reel, everything else moves
simply and symmetrically involving the top and bottom couples of the set while
everybody else claps and cheers.
"You do this like a pro!" I proclaim to my partner as we sashay down the set.
"Oh stop it!" she teases.
Yet everyone is a pro, like they've been dancing all their lives. This
is Virginia. The reel ends to the cries of "Huzzah!" echoed throughout the
room, cries growing louder throughout the night.
We proceed to "Chase The Squirrel," an wild round of gentlemen chasing ladies
and ladies chasing gentlemen accented with sashaying and copious swinging.
Wool uniforms stand up to the torture test, but hoopskirts cry for mercy. One
of them breaks on a young lady's finest, jutting out from her dress like a
saber. It slashes the air until her mother yanks it out and tosses it aside.
Although winded, the gentlemen pause to offer a verse of "Carry Me Back To Old
Virginny," aided by our Lieutenant, happy to join us again after a long time
absent on special detail. Our first attempt failed to impress the captain. The
second fares much better.
Now the ladies must make an offering of their own, not from their mouths, but
from their feet. Once again, it is time for the traditional shoe dance to
determine the partners for the next Virginia Reel. Each lady removes one item
of footwear, tossing it into a pile while the gentlemen soldiers stand at
attention, about-face. They shoulder and fix bayonets on their rifles of air.
The secret, I have found, is not to emerge in front of the hard-pressing pack
but to linger a bit behind, where in the scramble for shoes, an article of
footwear undoubtedly slides from the pile, right into my hands.
My new partner claims her shoe, and we claim a place at the top of another
set. Just as we are preparing to start, however, she dashes out of the hall.
"Wardrobe malfunction," another lady hurriedly explains.
I formulate plans to reel with a virtual partner should I be left solo, but
she arrives in the nick of time.
The guests roll through the figures with abundant confidence, laughing at
mistakes and reeling on.
"Over here. Over here! That's it, you've got it! Huzzah!"
Everyone is clapping now, realizing outbursts of joy are perfectly acceptable
and, in fact, expected.
They could likely dance the reel for half an hour, but the longest dance of
the evening is the simplest one: the Pineapple Dance, the mixer where three
sit in a chair, one holding the token of hospitality, passing it to another,
and sashaying off with the third. Two new dancers fill the empty seats, and
the game continues. It takes a moment for our newcomers to pick up the rhythm
and flow, but once they do, they are unstoppable. They even learn to cheat
when three men or three ladies end up in the chairs, tossing the pineapple to
someone else in line and sashaying as a hollering troika down the lines of
couples. I gallop with a lady of the 1st Virginia and we finish with an
improvised simultaneous twirl worthy of a medal. I cannot stop laughing.
Fifteen minutes of unbridled euphoria, and we arrive at the final waltz of the
evening. Although I try my best to find a lady I have not danced with yet this
evening, I find the lady in blue is unconnected to a partner, and I will not
leave her wanting. We ease into a two-step.
"You've got to twirl her," another couple next to us prods.
So I do, lifting my right hand and letting the lady spin twice around. Another
lady has shown me how to do a double twirl as opposed to a single. It all
begins with the placement of the hand in a particular position in relation to
the face depending on the number of times around. But we don't follow strict
protocol. I cannot remember it, anyway. We dance on.
Our Dance Captain heaps praise on our guests in his closing words, the evening
exceeding all expectations. Now, as we leave the hall, it's up to all of us to
carry the spirit of the dance forward. Two and three weeks from now, this
night will still be fresh upon our minds, he says, and we can take the honor
and respect into our circles of friends and family or anyone else in our
lives. And more dances shall follow in Virginia, perhaps in Yorktown, for one.
We have much to look forward for.
"You were right, Christopher," one man tells me, saying the evening was indeed
as wonderful as I had promised. Nobody walks away disappointed.
"What does 'Huzzah' mean?"
"It's like 'hooray!'" I explain. "Actually, it's more 18th Century than 19th
Century, but it has sort've become a trademark."
Logistics and schedules inhibit a post-ball feast. But on the modern-day
carriage ride back to the inn, I think once again about
my very first We Make History ball
and how it
changed my life forever. I think about how many lives were touched this night,
the many smiles on many faces. Undoubtedly, some will sit up for hours with
afterglow, but mysteriously, I am not one of them as I drift off -- perhaps
dancing in my dreams.
Please also see our “Etiquette
& Expectations” page as well as our "All
About Us" page.