A collection of dances from the early Australian colonial era 1770-1850. This site reveals the history of dance in the first half of the colonial period exploring significant social and historical links.
In the modern age of intense electronic social networking, these dances shine as genuine, warm, social pleasures. Words are unnecessary while dancing, other skills are required – a smile, a glance, a touch. Could it be more different to social media on your smart phone?
In an evening of country dance one may have a dozen partners and dance with every person in the room; a group of individuals synchronised in the pattern of the dance.
Dance rates as one of the most beneficial forms of recreation: it involves so many different aspects in such an enjoyable way. The exercise of moving through the dance, remembering the figures, listening and responding to the music, and above all, the myriad of friendly interactions.
Visit the latest updates:
Harry Macklin Shaw, champion clog dancer of Australasia and great-great-grandfather of celebrity Craig Revel Horwood.
Featured on BBC TV Who Do You Think You Are?
To be screened on SBS in Australia late 2017.
One night, one ball… dance like Jane Austen.
Celebrating Jane’s life in her 200th anniversary year.
21st October, 2017
Sandgate Town Hall, Brisbane
We’re thrilled to be awarded a grant from the Moreton Bay Arts Development Fund and Arts Queensland to record music for early colonial dance. Thanks to the Moreton Bay Council and Arts Queensland for supporting this unique project exploring our lost culture. http://www.colonialdance.com.au/music-grant-2017-2646.html
12 May 2017
Celebrating Australian Heritage Festival.
This special event will feature our easiest dances to encourage beginners to try this most social of dance forms.
Sounds Heritage Seminar
In late March, an international forum of invited experts will spend a day at Elizabeth Bay House sharing their knowledge about music making in historic houses.
I’ll be presenting some of the results of my current research: Dancing in Fetters: The Culture of Convict Dance
Governor Bligh and the Rum Rebellion.
A dance for the uprising.
Friday nights* in Samford, Brisbane
January – no dance, 10th February, 10th March, 7th April,
12th May, 16th June, 14th July, 11th August, 8th September,
14th October, 10 November, 8 December.
*mostly the 2nd Friday of the month. Check the regular events page for more details.
A Dance for Shakespeare 2016
Commemorating 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. (Including some Australian history).
Farmers Hall, Main Street, Samford, Brisbane, 4520
Friday, November 4 at 7.30 – 9.30 pm
The Australian bush tradition is rich in collected step dance tunes. Read more about reviving the step dance tradition.
The Grand Regency Ball commemorated the 200th anniversary of Governor Macquarie’s Waterloo ball in Sydney. Our ball was held in Old Government House, the most important heritage building in Brisbane.
Read also about the famous Duchess of Richmond’s Ball held on the eve of the battle of Waterloo.
Our ball was held in conjunction with the Redcliffe Museum’s exhibition The Redcoats of Moreton Bay tracing the history of British Regiments in the area, beginning with the first settlement in 1824.
The English country dance The Salamanca Castanets was published in Button and Whittaker’s Collection of Country Dances for the Year 1813 1. It is a captivating tune, which utilises country dance figures, whilst capturing and maintaining the Spanish exuberance. Its fascinating history still resonates in Tasmania.
“…the assemblage was brilliant, the punch superlative, and the dancing extremely active, if not elegant.” Discover the musical legacy of Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin in Tasmania.
A collage for Australia Day, 26th January, 2015.
The Farmers’ Hall, Samford, QLD.
22 February, 26 April, 28 June, 23 August, 25 October, 4 November, 9 December
Check the events page for more details.
Port Jackson, a dance from 1796.
It is extraordinary that within eight years of the founding of the colony, a fashionable dance was devised in London to celebrate such an obscure place on the other side of the world.
Governor Phillip meets Jane Austen.
Did Arthur Phillip meet Jane Austen?
They both lived in the elegant city of Bath, joined the circulating library and attended balls and concerts. Could they have met? This article explores the possibilties.
Our August dance falls on the 200th anniversary of Governor Phillip’s death. See the events page.
Matthew Flinders and the Glorious First of June.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Matthew Flinders’ death.
A highly significant event in Flinders’ life was the battle known as The Glorious First of June. Three dances were devised to celebrate the great naval battle. Here is one of them, along with the fascinating history of Matthew Flinders’ flute.
Captain Cook’s early life – Boscawen’s Frolick, the first in a series featuring music and dance associated with Captain James Cook.
the French convict who became Australia’s first dancing master.
Lasses of Portsmouth, a dance from 1780.
Heather Clarke. 28 October 2013.
history – dances – music
Colonial Dance Manuals
list of manuals in Australian libraries
The information on this website www.colonialdance.com.au may be copied for personal use only, and must be acknowledged as from this website. It may not be reproduced for publication without prior permission from Heather Clarke.