Newport Vintage Dance Week

by The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers

Newport Dancers' Gazette

Previous Issue

Next Issue

Gazette Archives

The Newport Dancers' Gazette

Newport Dance Week
Volume 5 Number 1 - August 10, 1998
Editors: Michelle and Peter Lee


The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers are pleased to welcome you to our eleventh Newport Vintage Dance Week. We are especially grateful to Portsmouth Abbey School for allowing us to hold the dance week here this year. We hope you enjoy the new site. Information about some other things that are new this year is below. For your information, we share the campus this week with attendees of an Elderhostel conference.

Happy dancing!
Hannah Roberts Artuso
Conference Coordinator and Co-Director

A Note From Your CVD Hosts

There are a number of new features to this year's Vintage dance week. We won't try to mention all of them here, but we do want to highlight a few.

Our new site is rather more compact than the one to which many of us have become accustomed. We no longer have to hike (or run) between classes, as both dance spaces are located in the same building. The time between morning classes will now be devoted to daily announcements - we hope this will work better than bellowing over lunch.

There will be a notice board in the hallway between the two dance spaces. If you are planning an outing for Thursday afternoon, this would be a good place to post a notice or sign-up sheet to encourage others to come along. There will also be a sign-up roster for the Saturday, "Games Day," townball game between the Newport Lancers and the Boston Dips - don't worry if you've never played townball; some folks regard that as a distinct advantage.

To make the most of our sylvan surroundings, we have planned an afternoon tea every day. The exact time varies a bit from day to day to accommodate other scheduled activities. For the most part, the teas are intended to be casual affairs - a chance to visit and chat, away from the pressures of the classes and balls. We never discourage the wearing of fine clothes, but we do not expect it at tea. If you have brought some white finery specifically for tea, it should be perfect for Friday's "Formal Tea." On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Tea will take place at the Marquee tent on the green beside the dormitories (the Manor House lawn). For the Friday "Formal Tea" we will set up croquet and other period recreations. Tea on Saturday will be served near the games activities.

There is a small pebble beach within easy walking distance of the dormitories. It is reached by a stone stairway located near a small stone tower (the "Boathouse") just across the Manor House lawn from the dormitories. We expect this will be a popular destination on Thursday afternoon, "Outing Day." Note that there is no lifeguard on duty at this beach.

To reach the boathouse, you must cross a set of railroad tracks. On Tuesday, we will wait by these tracks for the dinner train which will transport us to another time and place (well, really the same place, and you'll have to help with the time part as well).


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 (beginners often find the dances of the 1920s and ragtime era easier to pick up than those of the nineteenth century).


We remind you that Vintage Dancers should be security conscious. Please lock your rooms, as the dormitories themselves are not locked. REMEMBER YOUR KEYS!!! Portsmouth Abbey does not have a 24 hr. security office, as Salve Regina did. It will be a hassle if you lock yourself out!


Smoking is not permitted in or near any of the buildings, including dormitory rooms. Alcohol may not be brought into the dining hall.

"…The wave of wrath over the 'Turkey Trot' is just receding, though 'modern dances' are still in disrepute. Those who first appeared on dance floors to the stirring strains of Too Much Mustard were depraved beings, and conservatives sighed for the beautiful and discarded waltz, forgetting naturally enough that the waltz, when new, was not considered beautiful&endash;neither it nor the polka, the schottische nor the gavotte, which were the 'modern' and therefore 'scandalous' dances of of 1860!…"

Ladies' Home Journal, October 1916

In giving a dance, avoid, if possible, sending invitations to bores - they come without them.

Manners for the Metropolis 1912


"Paris is still tango-mad… Tango tea rooms have sprung up as if by magic, and straightaway have become so popular that tables must be engaged a week in advance…."


Harper's Bazar, January 1914

The editor wishes to thank Mr. Robert Chapman for bringing to her attention the existence of a Library of Congress web site of dance manuals and related works at


By Hannah Roberts Artuso

On Tuesday, we offer an optional tour of the Green Animals Topiary and the Brayton Estate. Located just across Cory's Lane from the Portsmouth Abbey School, the estate was a natural choice for this year's mansion tour. The topiary and gardens are world renowned. Never having toured the property, I was concerned whether the house would live up to our expectations of a mansion. On a recent trip to Portsmouth Abbey, I took time out to tour the Brayton home and found much of interest there. While the home is without the tons of marble and millions of dollars of gold of, say, The Breakers or Marble House, it is a well-appointed country estate, furnished almost entirely with the Brayton family's belongings. In addition, The Preservation Society of Newport County's antique toy collection is housed upstairs in the Brayton home&endash;although it has no connection to the Brayton family. Oh, how I would have loved to have been a child riding in the horse carriage tricycle!

As a mother planning her daughter's seventh birthday when I toured, I was most intrigued to read the clipping from the local paper of the seventh birthday Miss Alice Brayton gave for her godchild. A hall was rented and transformed for fairies and sprites. Children came dressed as their favorite fairy-tale characters. A dragon periodically made appearances from a cave. And the cake!! You can read about the event in the first floor hallway. Needless to say, Kelty's birthday was not so elaborate!!

Below is a description of the topiary and estate provided by The Preservation Society of Newport County and reprinted with their kind permission: "The small country estate known as Green Animals, overlooking Narragansett Bay in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, was purchased in 1872 by Thomas E. Brayton (1844-1939). It consisted of seven acres of land, a white clapboard summer residence, farm outbuildings, a pasture and a vegetable garden. Mr. Brayton was treasurer of the Union Cotton Manufacturing Company in Fall River, Massachusetts from 1879 to 1920. His daughter, Alice Brayton, inherited the estate and made it her permanent residence in 1940. Upon her death in 1972, she left Green Animals to The Preservation Society of Newport County. Today, Green Animals remains as a rare example of a self-sufficient estate combining formal topiaries, vegetable and herb gardens, orchards and changing annual flower displays.

"Mr. Brayton, through the able assistance and imagination of his superintendent Joseph Carreiro, was responsible for creating the formal gardens and most of the present topiary. Mr. Carreiro was superintendent form 1905 until his death in 1945. His son-in-law, George Mendonca, took over as superintendent and continued to develop new topiary and gardens until his retirement in 1985. The Preservation Society's staff now continues to maintain the historic estate.

"Alice Brayton gave the estate its name because of the profusion of "green animals." While well-known for her wit, her scholarly writings and civic activities, Miss Brayton was best known as a horticulturist. As a result of her efforts, Green Animals is one of the finest topiary gardens in the country."


The dinner train is scheduled to depart from the Boathouse at 7:00 pm - please do not be late, as you could miss more than the first course! Our private dinner train will pick us up right on campus and transport us along the coast of Narragansett Bay to Newport and back, as we enjoy an elegant dinner and watch the sunset. We suggest Ragtime evening attire for this excursion, as we will have an informal ragtime dance (to tapes) in the gymnasium upon our return at approximately 9:30 p.m.


Wednesday's ball will be held at the Astors' "Beechwood" Mansion. It is located at 580 Bellevue Ave., Newport. To get there from Portsmouth Abbey School: drive down Cory's Lane to Route 114. Turn right on Rte. 114. Go 4-5 miles down Rte. 114. You will pass a plaza on your right with an Ames dept. store and the Ocean State Job Lot. At the next light, you should see a furniture store on the corner. Turn left here onto Valley Road (which is also route 238, though it may not be posted as such). Follow Valley Road/Rte. 238 for several miles. It eventually intersects with Memorial Blvd. which bears right and past Newport's First Beach (on left). Follow Memorial Blvd. up the hill to the first major intersection, which is Bellevue Ave. Turn left on Bellevue Ave. Go approx. 1 1/2 mi. down Bellevue Ave. Beechwood is on the left just after Rosecliff Mansion and just before Marble House. If you get to Marble House, turn around!


Thursday evening provides an informal break between balls as we attend, or not, one of the various house parties scheduled to take place:

The Haunted House Party: Be prepared to be scared (or to pretend to be). We encourage spontaneous reading from Edgar Allen Poe, Wilkie Colins, or other venerable sources of horror - Barbara Pugliese will have copies of suitable stories for anyone who wants to prepare their spontaneous reading. Feel free to make up a horrific (but short) tale - some possible themes are: "The Mansion Tour from Hell," "The Ghost of Portsmouth Abbey," "The Mad Dancing Master," "The Absolutely Very Last Waltz," "The Wallflower's Revenge," etc. 

Other house parties will include a Tango/Milonga Evening hosted by Jim Griesemer and Sheryl Ruzek, a Folk Dance Evening hosted by Louis and Loretta Strassler and Joe Delaney, a New Orleans Houseparty hosted by Ralph McDonald&endash;master mixer of the Pimm's Cup. The two dance parties will actually take place in the gymnasium. Locations for the other events will be announced during the week.



Mrs. Astorbilt has again agreed to grace The Gazette with her wit and advice. The following letters are reprints from the Newport Dancers' Gazette Vol. 2 Issue 1 (1995). Mrs. A will grace us with a brand new letter for the 2nd issue.

Dear Mrs. Astorbilt,

I have arrived at Newport with four nice outfits, but my roommate is busily unpacking twenty-five historically correct outfits. Am I grossly unprepared for this dance week?


Dear Aghast,

While Newport Dance Week has about a dozen opportunities to dance, dine and socialize in a historical setting, the clothing for these activities pretty much falls into four classes: nineteenth century evening wear, early twentieth century evening wear, daytime "whites," and a costume. In fact, many people arrive at Newport planning to put together a fancy dress costume during the week, while others wear ordinary evening dress to that ball. I am sure that your four outfits will be quite suitable, though you may end up wearing your daytime outfit several times (there are laundry facilities in every dorm…). A cheerful spirit and a fair attempt (whatever your closet permits) at dress in keeping with the occasion will see you through. By the way, what is your roommate going to do with her other thirteen outfits, and how do you compare in size?

Mrs. Astorbilt

Dear Mrs. Astorbilt,

I brought twenty-five different outfits to Newport this year. My roommate has gone off to the opening party to have fun, while I am still unpacking. Did I overdo it?

Acknowledged Clotheshorse

Dear Clotheshorse,


Mrs. Astorbilt

Dear Mrs. Astorbilt,

I don't have a set of tails. Should I wear my white dinner jacket or my black tuxedo jacket to the formal balls?


Dear Tailless,

Wear the black. The essence of proper dress, especially for gentlemen, is to avoid being conspicuous. A black jacket or even a dark suit or sport jacket will blend in with the tailcoats of others - a white jacket would stick out like a bandaged thumb.

Mrs. Astorbilt

"Glimpses of Castle House:
The Debutante Dip The Noli me Tango

Fancy Hand-Work

The Weight for Age A Queen and a Castle"

Castle House 1914

Return to the Newport Vintage Dance Week page.
Visit the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers' Home Page.

Last updated 23 April 2001/beb