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Get down like its 1599

October 5, 2018

LEAD — For anyone looking to “shaketh thine groove thang”, there will be a free, beginner’s medieval dance class from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Sunday at the Black Hills Rod and Gun Club located at 288 Washington St., in Lead.

Andria Michele, who will teach the class, is a member of the Shire of Noiregarde, in the Kingdom of Northshield; no, don’t go digging out all your Lord of the Rings DVDs to try to figure out what that is. The Shire of Noiregarde is a local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

The SCA is a worldwide nonprofit volunteer educational organization, which focuses on researching and recreating the skills, arts, culture, and combat of the pre-17th century world.

“It’s a welcoming, fun, maker culture,” Michele said. “Many people help each other and teach each other for free or low cost.”

Michele found a passion for all things medieval while attending Palomar College in California; there she took a dance history class and shortly after began teaching ballroom dance. She said she specializes in teaching beginners.

“I love being that bridge for people (learning a new thing),” she said.

The earliest dance instructions date to the 1500s, so really all our dances are renaissance or later. There are plenty of references to people dancing earlier than that, but written choreography hasn’t survived.”

Michele said that the history of medieval dance can be tricky to navigate, and has been as hotly debated as any scholarly issue, but in its simplest form, there are basically two types of medieval dance.

“’Court’ and ‘country’ are convenient terms,” she explained. “But how much difference there was between dances of nobility and those of the common folk, is a complex question. Especially since nobody was writing down peasant dances. You can get; and probably will get, a lot of speculation based on illuminations and other sources, but not a simple answer.”

Despite the complexities of studying medieval dance, Michele said learning the actual steps and movements are really very easy. She said she learned the dances she’ll be teaching on Sunday through video chatting with a fellow medieval maiden.

“If you can walk, you can dance,” she said.

A couple of the dances Michele will be teaching are the Pavane and the Branle. She likens these and other medieval dances to square dancing or country line dancing, and hopes to spark a renewed interest in dance as well as continue to offer other dance classes in the future. She said that over the past 75 years or so, dance has dropped from part of our cultural identity and a sort of masculine stigma has tainted the dance world for a long time.

“Guys used to dance,” she said. “Maybe your dad didn’t, but I guarantee your grandpa did. That’s what you did back then.”

Michele says the advent of television is at least partially to blame.

“When people started sitting and being entertained; that’s when they stopped going out and entertaining themselves,” she said.

Michele said that’s one of the driving forces for this dance class and also her involvement with the SCA all together.

“The main points of the class are that it’s interesting, easy, and fun,” she said. “Kids that can focus and pay attention for that length of time and adults (are) welcome.”

To find out more about the Society for Creative Anachronism visit www.sca.org. To find out more about the free medieval dance class this Sunday, email Michele at andriamichele@gmail.com.

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