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History Of Quadrille 

Quadrille is the traditional dance of the U.S. Virgin Islands which originated in France in the 1700’s. Although the Virgin Islands are now a United States territory, through its history, the islands have been part of seven different nations, including France and England. Quadrille was brought to the Virgin Islands during the height of its popularity in England, and was adapted as plantation entertainment. Quadrilles were originally performed by two couples. The dance later evolved, and two more couples were added to form sides. The dance was performed by four couples in a square formation, and is a precursor to traditional square dancing. The dance has continued to evolve over the past few centuries, and it takes on a unique and dynamic presentation and personality when performed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As the dance is performed, the dancers are told what particular moves to perform by the “floormaster” or the “caller,” much like a traditional square dance. In quadrille however, many of the calls are given in French. For example, when the caller says balancez, the gentlemen will move from their partner’s side and position themselves directly in front of their partner. And when the caller says tunez, the gentlemen will place his palm on the ladies left side and turn her to the right. The basic step that you see the dancers performing is called a Polka.

The dancers all wear traditional quadrille costumes made of a madras material. The men wear madras shirts, and the women wear madras skirts, traditionally with white petticoats. The women also wear traditional head-ties also made of madras. The tying of a head-tie is an art in the Virgin Islands. That is because the way the head-tie is tied, is of great significance. For example, a head-tie tied with one point signifies: “I am free.” A head-tie tied with two points means: “I am engaged but, you can still try.” Three points says: “I’m already taken.” And four points means: “I am available.” The music that the dancers perform to is the official music of the U.S. Virgin Islands, quelbe.

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