The Lancers is a quadrille that was popular in Civil War-era America. It originated in the early 19th century and was danced well into the 20th century. A quadrille is danced with couples forming a square. The dance is called the Lancers because it was supposed to mimic the movements of lance-carrying cavalry soldiers.
There are five different figures, or series of movements, in the Lancers. Two of them are performed in the video segment. The first one is called “Le Native.” It consists of a short bow and a long bow, followed by the ladies making a star and then being turned out of the star and being sent back to into the star by the gentlemen of the partner opposite them. This provided an opportunity to interact with someone who was not your partner.
The other figure is called “The Lancers.” It is a more complicated figure, and the complexity is in the use of space—where you go as a dancer in relation to the other dancers and your partner. The dance includes a grand right and left (in which dancers move around the square as if it were a circle, alternating hands); the formation of two lines which go forward and back and cross; and a looping figure through which couples move up the center. The symmetry and sweeping figures make this an elegant dance and show off the long skirts of the ladies—after all, a dance was a place to see and be seen, to meet people, and to flirt. Socialization was an important part of dance in Civil War America, and movements of The Lancers allow for dancers to interact with each other face-to-face.
The Berea Festival Dancers is a middle and high school dance group based in Berea, Kentucky, and directed by Theresa Lowder. The group performs a wide variety of traditional English and American dances, along with dances fromDenmark, Ireland, and other countries. The dance is performed to the song “The Lancers Quadrille,” with an arrangement from The Civil War Ballroom Book by Bill Mathieson. The arrangement is used with permission.