Newport Vintage Dance Week

by The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers

Newport Dancers' Gazette

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The Newport Dancers' Gazette

Newport Dance Week
Volume 3 Number 1 - August 5, 1996
Editors: Michelle and Peter Lee


Dear Friends--Old and New,
The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers are extremely pleased to welcome you to the 9th Newport Vintage Dance Week. We are very excited about this year's program. Always tinkering to invent a better mousetrap, we're looking forward to two new events: the Ragtime Cabaret and the 1890's Ball. We are also delighted to have Nancy Rexford join us for a lecture on Saturday morning.

1860's illustration The comments turned in at the end of the week last year were most helpful for our planning. We hope, if you have been here before, that you find your favorite events scheduled. If this is your first visit with us, we hope you find the week to be a lot of fun!

Speaking with the instructors over the past weeks, I know they have an abundance of interesting material prepared to keep you busy and challenged.

If there is anything we can do to make your stay here more enjoyable, please speak to me, or any of The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers, and we will try to assist you.

Best wishes for a fabulous week!

Hannah Roberts Artuso
Conference Coordinator and Co-Director, CVD


Those trying vintage dance for the first time, including people with other types of dance experience, are encouraged to take the beginner level classes, as are those with only a little vintage dance experience. This will help you learn the basic vintage dance steps. Dancers familiar with the basic vintage dance steps may want to try the more advanced classes. The afternoon classes may be attended by dancers of any level, however, beginners may find the dances of the 1920s easier to pick up.


A reminder that Vintage Dancers must be security-conscious due to the openness of the campus and the many tourists in the area. A few basic tips:
1. Never prop the doors to the dormitories open.
2. Never let tourists into the dorms or dance halls.
3. Never leave bicycles unlocked.
4. Remember your keys!! If you do get locked out, call Salve Security to be let in: X 5500.


After you've unpacked (or if you need a break) please come renew acquaintances and make new friends as we warm up our dancing feet. Newport's summer parties and dances have made the city famous. You'll have a chance to dance and enjoy Ralph McDonald's legendary New Orleans Pimm's Cup (the drink that made the Newport Dance Week Famous). Other potables will be available for teetotalers.

The reception will be at Watts Sherman, starting at 8 PM on Monday night.


This year we will be touring the Chateau-sur-Mer, on Tuesday at 3:00 and 3:30 PM. You will need to stick with the time you signed up for at registration as we are limited in the number of guests we can send in at each tour time. Please be on time at the mansion as we must do a nose count for the mansion staff. We are scheduled to enter the mansion at 3:15 and 3:45 PM. Latecomers will not be allowed to join the tour.

Chateau-sur-Mer is an amazingly elaborate and ornate mansion. Built in 1852 for William S. Wetmore, a China trader, Richard Morris Hunt added Newport's first French ballroom to the home in 1872. A Chinese "moongate" is part of the south wall. Please meet at the mansion, as it is within walking distance of the College.

Directions to the Chateau-sur-Mer from Watts Sherman dorm: Travel up Shepard Ave. to Bellevue Ave. Turn Right onto Bellevue. The Mansion is on the right side of the street between Shepard and Leroy Ave.


On Tuesday at 7 PM there will be a Swap and Sell in Cecilia Hall (Carey Mansion). Please bring items you want to sell, or come looking for items you want to buy. Tables will be provided.


Sing-Along and Games Evening. You don't have to be Jenny Lind or Enrico Caruso to join Tuesday evening's sing along. Lend your voice or ears. If you have a favorite song, bring it along. The Sing Along will be in the lounge in Watts Sherman, starting at 9 PM on Tuesday. There will also be a puzzles and games available in Watts Sherman for those who'd like to come and listen.

Tango Evening: Narragansett Hall will host a tango soiree. Dancing on the open air porch makes for a perfect summer evening! Dancing commences at 9 PM on Tuesday evening.

Pick the party you want to go to, or visit both! If the residents of any other house would like to host another houseparty, please speak to Hannah Roberts Artuso, so the party can be announced.


If you would like to walk the Cliff Walk with others in "whites" (summer "white" attire is encouraged but not required), please meet on Wednesday at 3:30 PM behind McAuley Hall. If you are walking from Miley Hall on Ochre Point Ave, McAuley Hall is the next building on the left after Ochre Court.


picture of gent asking lady The annual Cream Tea will be held this year on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 - 5:30 PM at Naragansett House, after the promenade. This tea is served in the style that might be expected at an English country house party, or a village fete, with fresh scones, butter, heavy cream (hence the name "Cream Tea") and jam, and steaming pots of tea for the beverage. In contrast, the Wakehurst tea on Friday has a menu similar to fancy high teas served in English hotels.

This is a casual event, for Newport standards, held on the lawn with dancing on the porch (we will serve inside in case of rain). Please wear suitable clothing for an afternoon lawn party: vintage day wear and summer whites are particularly suitable, but you might save your best for the high tea and garden party at Wakehurst. As we hope to be outdoors, if you have packed a hat, this will be fine opportunity to wear it.

Narragansett House is on Narragansett Street, a few blocks inland from the Cliff Walk. It is easy to find for the wave-pattern picket fence in front. Those who are taking the Cliff Walk that afternoon might want to walk toward Ochre Court and turn up Naragansett St. (the street just beyond Ochre Court) to arrive in a timely manner at the tea.

Naragansett House appears to have been built originally in the 1860's or 1870's as a family house - this survives as the back wing, and the original staircase, trimmed with dark natural woodwork, is now the back stairs. The front of the house was purpose built at the turn-of-the-century to be an elegant summer boarding house. The large reception hall, front parlors and dining room and porch were common areas for the residents (the modern kitchen was simply the serving pantry originally - the main kitchen is behind it). Upstairs there are suites of rooms for families and single rooms above the porte cochere for bachelors. Rooms for ladies maids were provided on the third floor, accessed from the housekeeper's suite at the back of the second floor, while the gentlemen's valets had a separate staircase leading to their rooms above the bachelor's wing. The fine quality of architectural detail throughout indicates that this was a very respectable place to board for the summer - a step up from the spartan hotels of the time. It was very common in the late 19th century for families to board on the seaside or in the mountains for the entire summer to escape the heat and smells and disease of the cities. If husbands had to attend to business, they often stayed at their clubs in town during the week, and traveled to join their families for the weekend - if the distance was not too great. The society of these seaside resorts also provided opportunities for families to introduce their sons and daughters in an era before coeducational colleges were common. Naragansett House had the advantage of being on a quiet street nearby the mansions of Ochre Point, the Cliff Walk, and also within comfortable walking distance from the Casino - a good location for a family that did not maintain a carriage.
Submitted by Mr. John Burrows

Will the officer, who must remember me, because he tore my dress in the polka, be so kind as to send me my pocket-handkerchief? He may keep the flower.

P.S. I don't care about it, only Julia, that you wouldn't dance with, goes on and says she will tell Ma.

Punch March 17, 1860


On Wednesday Evening starting at 8:15 PM, a Ragtime Cabaret will be held at Carey Mansion. Please come dance your favorite steps at the rollicking cabaret.

Do you sing, recite verse, act, perform magic, play music, dance or possess another entertaining talent? We'd like to include you in the Cabaret Revue. Sign up at registration with Brian McCorkle.


To The Beach! Please listen for announcements regarding the beach trip on Thursday afternoon. Newport has several beaches. The destination will depend on beach conditions. We will try to arrange carpools for those without vehicles who would like to participate in this outing.

Vintage Yacht Afternoon Excursion: Tom Walton will lead an outing on the Adirondack--Newport's fastest schooner. 20 places have been reserved and will go on a first come basis. See Tom to make reservations. Sail time is at 3:15 PM on Thursday from the dock behind America's Cup Ave.

Complimentary soda is served and a cash bar is available. The cost is $17.00 per adult ($3 off the regular price). Carpool leaves parking lot at front of Miley Dining Hall at 3 PM. Fees are refundable if it rains.

Period Hairstyles Workshop: On Thursday Afternoon in Narragansett Hall. Katy Bishop will be holding a workshop on period hairstyles. Three or more feet of hair is not a prerequisite for this workshop! Common hairstyles of the 1860's, 1890's, 1900's and 1910's will be discussed with some hands-on hints about how to achieve them. Bring your hair accessories and a desire to play hairdresser! Please contact Katy if your interested in this workshop.

Other outings: Got other plans? Would you be willing to take someone along? Please post your destination, with a sign-up sheet, on the bulletin board in Miley Hall.


On Thursday Evening starting at 6:00 PM in Miley Hall there will be a New England Lobster Dinner. Who could call summer in New England complete without a lobster dinner? There will be chicken and vegetarian fare for those who prefer non-crustaceans. The big question: who knows the lobster quadrille? Will you won't you, will you won't you join the dance?


women with posey On Thursday Evening starting at 9:15 PM, there will be a formal 1890's Ball at the Astors' Beechwood Mansion.

Please join us at Mrs. Caroline Astors' summer cottage at 580 Bellevue Ave. Mrs. Astor was part of the Newport summer society and created the "Four Hundred," America's first circle of society's elite in the 1890's. Music will be provided by the New River Dance Orchestra.

Directions are as follows: from Cecilia Hall, go up Ruggles Ave. and take the first left onto Bellevue Ave. Mrs. Astor's home will be on the left, number 580. Parking is available on the estate grounds. If you have an automobile with you this week, please offer rides to those who do not. For more information on The Astors' Beechwood please call 401-846-3772.


The Wakehurst Tea will be on Friday at 3:30 PM on the first floor of the Wakehurst Center. Wakehurst is patterned after an Elizabethan house in Sussex, England. Wakehurst is across the street from Mercy Gym, and looks like a small castle. Tea, lemonade, and tea sandwiches will be served. Please add in that a stroll through the formal garden is a highlight of the event.


Mrs. Astorbilt has again agreed to grace The Gazette, with her wit and advice. The editors of the NDG are off-campus this season and regret that they cannot add new items to the Gazette during the week. If you have any questions for Mrs. Astorbilt, please hand them to Hannah or e-mail the NDG at and Mrs. A. will attempt to answer them for next year's Gazette.

Dear Mrs. Astorbilt,
This is my first time at Newport. I used the guidelines from the Newport "Greetings" letter to pick out from my closet the best clothes I had and I borrowed a few nice outfits from friends. Now that I'm here and see some of the beautiful and elaborate gowns some others have brought, I am feeling very intimidated. Will I look out of place in my plain, non-historical, dresses?

woman as butterfly Not Yet A Butterfly     

Dear Miss Butterfly to Be,
Many of the ladies you will see at Newport have been acquiring one or two nice dresses a year for many years, and now own a different lovely outfit for each tea and ball on the schedule. Others are content with a very few serviceable outfits that fit in with a variety of activities.

Mrs. Astorbilt is sure that everyone remembers their first Newport, when they had fewer clothing choices and much less packing to do! If you want to take the opportunity this week to do a little "window shopping" for the future, you will find that most everyone loves to talk about their clothes, and a simple question will elicit floods of information. On the other hand, polite folk will not offer advice on proper dress unless asked.

Enjoy yourself, work on your dancing, and find some congenial companions. While Mrs. Astorbilt feels that wearing historically styled clothing adds a nice touch to the events of the week, she hopes that no one gets so wrapped up in clothing worries that they forget to have fun.

Mrs. Astorbilt     

Dear Mrs. Astorbilt,
I was standing with my escort at a formal ball, when a couple approached us. The gentleman asked my friend for a dance on behalf of his wife. My friend assented, but then the gentleman did not ask me for a dance. Shouldn't a couple always ask both parties of another couple?
Unexpectedly a Wallflower

Dear Miss Wallflower,
Mrs. Astorbilt agrees that an awkward situation was created in which it does look as if the husband should have felt obliged to ask you for a dance. The problem, however, was less a matter of his not asking than of his creation of the situation in the first place. That is, Mrs. Astorbilt feels that the husband did indeed violate the principles of etiquette, but at an earlier point than you suggest.

As a general rule, one should not make social requests of a person who cannot readily decline. In it's strongest form, this principle dictates that a manager should not flirt with an employee, and that a teacher should not date a student. In a weaker form, this explains why a lady should not, in general, ask a gentleman for a dance, though she may with complete propriety ask her husband, her cousin, or any other friend close enough to her that he would know that he could decline without her feeling hurt or insulted.

When the husband asked your friend to dance with his wife in her presence, he made it impossible for your friend to decline without potentially causing her some humiliation. Had the gentleman made this request when alone with your friend, your friend could presumably have replied more freely. Best of all, however, would have been for the husband to have merely suggested that he ask the wife for a dance. Indeed, etiquette manuals of the period encourage popular ladies to make such suggestions to their partners on behalf of friends who on that evening have been less fortunate in being approached for dances.

On the matter of couples and parity of dance invitations: Some couples have private arrangements where the gentleman will not dance unless his wife has a partner, and he either declines ladies who ask, or he seeks a partner for his wife before he accepts a lady. Mrs. Astorbilt does not presume to dictate in private matters. She does think that dance invitations should be treated in the spirit of "casting your bread upon the waters" rather than in the spirit of double-entry bookkeeping. Mrs. Astorbilt believes that a lady who allows her escort to issue dance invitations freely will be rewarded, sooner or later, in unexpected and wonderful ways. A lady who is fearful of being neglected should discuss this, before the ball, with her escort so that they can come up with an arrangement that will make her feel more secure.
Mrs. Astorbilt

polka picture Dear Mrs. Astorbilt,
I recently attended an evening ball and discovered that I did not know how to reply to a request from a particular gentleman for a dance. I gave a favorable reply to this gentleman at a previous ball but found myself uncomfortable at how closely he held me. Indeed, his behavior was more intimate than I felt proper. Must I accept and if so how might I convey my wish to remain more distant? May I decline to dance and if so, what excuse shall I give?
Too Close for Comfort

Dear Mrs. Comfort,
It seems unlikely that you will be able to make your point at the same time as declining the dance. Mrs. Astorbilt suggests that you accept a dance, and see if he again pulls you too close. You might then exclaim something to the effect that you find the extreme closeness very awkward, or simply suggest that you are uncomfortable dancing in this posture. If he fails to correct the situation, you should ask him to take you to your seat without finishing the dance. Mrs. Astorbilt suspects that he will not thereafter ask you to dance as you will have communicated the nature and degree of your displeasure. Should he do so without a premising comment that convinces you that he has mended his ways, you should feel free to decline his invitations.
Mrs. Astorbilt

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For further information about The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers or the Newport Vintage Dance Week, send an e-mail to or call Hannah Roberts Artuso at (781) 662-8344 (before 10pm eastern time, please)

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Last updated 23 April 2001/beb