People are ‘Dancing through the Civil War’ at weekly programs

Shawn Hardy
Jef Savage of Danza Antiqua discusses his attire as an upper class gentleman going to an event during ‘Dancing Through the Civil War’ Tuesday evening at the Greencastle Senior Center.

A gentleman would take two pairs of white leather gloves to a mid-19th century ball so he could change halfway through after his hands got sweaty.

There was no air conditioning and no woman would want a sweaty hand print on her silk dress, Jef Savage told about 25 people gathered at the Greencastle Senior Center Tuesday night for “Dancing through the Civil War.”

Using dance, history lessons and related arts, Savage and his wife, Nancy Walker, of Danza Antiqua are providing a look in the history, life and culture around the time of Civil War America (1850- 1870) weekly at the Greencastle and Tuscarora senior centers through the early May.

The sessions, free and open to the public, will conclude with a Grand Victorian Ball from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, May 12, at the Tuscarora center, 11300 Fort Loudon Road, Mercersburg.

Supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, “Dancing through the Civil War” follows “Stepping Out in Time” (1900s to 1970s) presented last year by Danza Antiqua.

Ball fashions were the focus Tuesday night and Savage took the audience from his top hat to his tails, even noting he could use his walking stick to beat off bad guys or as a weapon.

Walker’s portion of the program clued the audience in to what was beneath her pink ballgown, including her crinoline and underpinnings.

The ladies were interested in her crinoline and men, too, because “men are always interested in ladies’ underthings,” she said.

“Dancing through the Civil War” started in March. It is created so those who want to learn the dances can, while others sit back and enjoy the history lesson.

Sophia Nemcek,11, was among those on the dance floor for the Virginia Reel Tuesday evening. Her mother, Christine Emory, is manager of the Greencastle Senior Center.

The New Franklin Elementary School fifth-grader, always the youngest in attendance, likes the history, likes the dancing and enjoys the music.

John Shindledecker, manager of the Waynesboro Senior Center, also is a history buff who has been to all the programs. He said a blue and gray ball may be held for a future celebration in Waynesboro.

Richard Walck, 88, and his friend, Thelma Decker, 76, of Greencastle were on hand to watch the dancing and hear the music.

Emory said she likes the history part of the program and Walck added, “I’ll go along with you on that.”

Ron and Diane Myers of Greencastle attended their second program Tuesday “because we remembered,” he joked. She said they are interested in the Civil War.

“This history is interesting. I’m not a history buff, but I’m learning things,” said Gladys Griffith of Greencastle, who has attended all but one evening.

“The ones who come are extremely enthusiastic and ask great questions,” Walker said.

The programs are free and open to the public. They will continue from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays April 18 and 25 and May 2 at the Greencastle Senior Center, 10615 Antrim Church Road, Greencastle (call 717-597-2020 for more information) and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays April 20 and 27 and May 4 at the Tuscarora Senior Center (call 717-328-4744 for more information).

The Grand Victorian Ball will feature a “pot luck” dinner of period recipes and the dances from season, from the Lancers Quadrille to Le Carillon de Dunkerque. Participants can dress in period fashions or wear an item of clothing or accessories from the era.