Dancing cures cholera epidemic in 1832

The Prison at Cork (1831).
Courtesy of Cork Past & Present.

In 1832 an outbreak of cholera threatened the women in the prison of Cork, Ireland. No-one knew how to prevent the development or spread of cholera because the discovery of germs — the cause of cholera — did not happen until 1864. Even worse, no doctors knew how to treat cholera patients.

The prison authorities came up with a special treatment.

Read the complete story!


The Victorian Christmas Waltz of 1866

Dancing in colonial Australia permeated nearly all aspects of social life.
Many of the title pages of sheet music show lovely scenes of Australian life. This one is particularly gorgeous with dancers waltzing on the lawn to the music of a military (?) band.

Cutolo, Cesare. & Grosse, F.  National Library of Australia.


Dr Heather’s talk

Heather discusses her research and dancing in Australia on the Historical Tea & Dance Society‘s series “5 Things…inside the dancing mind”. Now online.

Click here for : Web chat  and  After talk

A sailor’s story

‘The Sailor’s Return’,  Charles Mosley (c.1750)
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London…/objects/127936.html



“Whilst I am on the tender subject of connubial felicity, I will relate a short dialogue which passed between two of my messmates. The eldest was a Benedict, the other about twenty, who wished to be initiated, as he thought he had a kind of sidewind regard for the innkeeper’s sister at Port Royal.

‘Why,’ said the first, ‘I met my wife at a hop in the country among a parcel of grass-combers. I asked her to dance, which she at first refused, giving for a reason that, as I was a sailor, I could not know how to lead down the middle and cast off at top.

“If that’s all,” I said, “my dear, I know how to do that as well as anybody in the room.”

I was now pushed aside by a lubberly, haymaking chap, who led her out, but who as much knew how to dance as the captain’s cow. After they all sat down, I asked the catgut scraper if he could play the fisher’s hornpipe. He said yes. I told him to play away, and I would dance it. After veering and hauling on the instrument for a short time, he brought it out. I then struck out, with my hat on one side, my arms a-kimbo, and a short stick under one of them. The bumpkins all stared, and Nancy began to awake and find out that a sailor know how to cut a caper.”

Except from: A Sailor of King George. The Journals of Captain Frederick Hoffman RN, 1793-1814
Introduction by Colin White. Chatham Publishing, London, 1999.

New video out now!

Our documentary on Cook’s biography explored through music and dance premiered on the UK Historical Dance Society‘s online series on October 21st.  Now available on YouTube.  Watch now

There’s also a Q & A session

Pirates in Moreton Bay

On the 16th of December 1831, the Caledonia was taken by a large band of convicts from its moorings in Moreton Bay, sending its entire crew ashore with the exception of its captain, Mr. Browning. The convicts sailed away to Fiji, forcing Captain Browning to navigate. Along the way, the pirates had a terrible row amongst themselves and murdered nearly half of their number, Captain Browning being spared in order to navigate the ship.
On arrival at Fiji, the pirates decided that they needed to also do away with Browning for their own safety, but the Captain overheard their conversation and crashed the ship in order to escape.
Browning was taken in by one of the local tribes, which he got on well with and taught to dance in the style of Europeans using the ship’s fiddle which he had rescued from the wreckage of the ship.
He was eventually rescued by an American whaler and returned home to Moreton Bay.

Read the original account here:
Happy speak like a pirate day!

Image source:

1820 Subscription Ball & Supper

A ball in Scarborough, England in 1820. Public Domain

On this day, 7th October, in 1820, a splendid ball was held in Sydney to celebrate the visit of the two Russian ships on a voyage of discovery.
Lachlan Macquarie, a keen dancer, was Governor at the time, and held many balls at Government House. Apparently, he didn’t attend this ball, but his Lieutenant-governor, James Erskine, honoured the company with his presence. We’re told “Beauty and elegance adorned the ballroom… and the ‘merry dance’ was kept up, with utmost vivacity, until Wednesday morning.”

Ship News. (1820, April 22). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from

2020 Jane Austen/Australian Regency Ball.

Photos from our ball are now in the gallery.

Thanks to everyone who came to our inaugural Jane Austen Ball at Dayboro.    It was a lovely evening with a strong sense of community in the beautiful, heritage-listed hall.  Thanks to our band, Philip’s Dog who played as splendidly as always, and our special guest, Dayboro pianist Coral Keogh.

Photos!  We’d love to share your photos of the ball on the website and Facebook.  Please send them along!
Click here for the gallery of previous balls


One of our early colonial dance teachers, Rosie (dancing with Peter Stringfellow) is featured on this year’s National Folk Festival mug. Hurrah for dancing at #ourNFF.  Artwork based on a photo from Melbourne Ceili Camera.

The National Folk Festival is selling the merchandise made for their (cancelled) 2020 festiva.

Tickets now available for our Jane Austen Ball.  Click here

IN/FORM Issue #3, 2020

Published on Aug 21, 2020

Issue #3 of Ausdance QLD’s magazine IN/FORM focuses and celebrates the amazing array of members across our dance sector.

Check out this article about Dr Heather and early colonial dance in the latest Ausdance QLD magazine.

Our band, Phillip’s Dog, provided a snippet of music for  “French Science on the High Seas: Voyages of exploration and discovery” for National Science Week.

Catch our article in Signals, the quarterly magazine of  the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Dancing with Cook

Soft airs and hornpipes with the great navigator

“Captain Cook wisely thought that dancing was of special use to sailors…it was to this practice that he mainly ascribed the sound health which his crew enjoyed…(Blasis, 1830)


One perspective of James Cook which has rarely been examined is how music, theatre, and dance were interwoven into his life and served to venerate him after death.  He used music and dance to keep his crew healthy and to establish peaceful communications with people he encountered on his voyages.  His own life was commemorated in dance.

See pages 30-33 in the online edition.


Download the pdf.  Dancing_with_Cook_Signals131

On the radio

The 1839 illegal masquerade ball

With dancing being banned in nightclubs in Brisbane due to Covid restrictions, Kate O’Toole on ABC Radio contacted me to chat about other times when dancing had been banned in Australia.
The interview on 10 July, covered the story of an illegal ball in Sydney in 1839.


THE MASQUERADE.—Inspector Price was going the rounds about twelve o’clock on Friday night, his ears were assailed by a most horrible fiddling and drumming, which he found proceeded from a house kept by a person named Norman who has a room fitted up for the express purpose of giving fancy balls. After stationing a couple of Constables at the door Price went up stairs, where he found about fifty persons assemblcd, of all ranks, and with all kind of dresses on. Great war the confusion at the Inspector’s approach, and how to get out was the question with many which was solved by some who jumped out of the window, and others making the best of their way down stairs. The first person on whom the Inspector fixed his eye upon was a little shop-boy dressed as Jim Crow, looking very much like a dirty chimney sweep on a May-day, who was immediately handed into custody ; the next was a young man who receives a salary of ten shillings a-week, and was dressed in a sort of petticoat with a scarlet jacket trimmed with gold lace who described him-self as being dressed in ” Greek custom,” who ” not having anything to show for his freedom,”‘ was placed with Jim Crow. Four nymphs of the pave who were dressed as Don Giovanni, Constantin, Squalling Fan, and Paul the Pet of the Petticoats, were taken for disorderly conduct, and the whole party were handed to St. James’ watch-house where they were confined until next morning, when they had the felicity of being marched to the Police Office. Saturday being a holiday, Mr. Windeyer would not enter into the case, but ordered them to be admitted to bail for their appearance this morning, and about eleven o’clock they were turned out amidst the admiring gaze of a large concourse of people. We are glad that the Police appear to be determined to put an end to these nuisances, and we trust the Chief Constable will not fail to lay an information against the keeper of this house for keeping an unlicensed place of entertainment, the penalty for which is £50. The same ” concern” was fined £30 last week, for illicitly retailing spirituous liquors.

ACCIDENTS, OFFENCES, &c. (1839, January 28). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved February 19, 2020, from


The National Folk Festival is selling the merchandise made for their (cancelled) 2020 festival – including this mug, with artwork based on a photo of our dancer/teacher, Rosie (dancing with Peter), taken by Melbourne Ceili Camera.
Now that’s cool!


We started back dancing on 14th of August and featured this dance called ‘The Black Nag’.  Here is an amusing animated version.

Dancing again in Brisbane

Moreton Bay Council and Queensland Health has given us the go ahead with a Covid-safe plan.

Coming dance dates
28 August
11 & 25 September
23 October
10 October Jane Austen/Australian Regency Ball [at Dayboro] 13 & 27 November
11 December

Friday evenings at The Farmers Hall, 30 Main Street, Samford, QLD 4520
Time: 7:30pm   Cost: $4.00.
Subsidised by Moreton Bay Council’s Healthy & Active