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"The Norfolk Towne Assembly promotes an understanding
of Early American music, dance, and social culture in the
Revolutionary and Early Republic (1770 - 1830) eras
through research, public performance, social history talks,
and other Living History interpretive activities."



Thomas Jefferson, a passionate believer in education as the cornerstone of democracy, once wrote, "If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."  James Madison, known as the "father" of the Constitution, wrote, "A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people."

Today, knowledge of American History is in crisis.  According to a recent survey:


  • Slightly more than half (53%) of Americans do not know that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States are called the "Bill of Rights."

  • One third of Americans (33%) do not know who delivered the Gettysburg Address

  • A sizable number (42%) of Americans do not know the title of the national anthem.



Historically, social dance was an extremely important part of the lives of the people of North America.  While Balls were primarily the realm of the wealthy, people lesser financial means danced in taverns, and inns throughout the young United States. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, soldiers in camp often danced with each other to help pass the time.

The Norfolk Towne Assembly has provided period dance demos, usually combined with some simple audience participation dances, to service clubs, youth organizations, historic sites and reenactments.  These demos, particularly the audience participation part, are always popular. These dance programs are tailored, as appropriate to the situation, to represent any level of society, from the Gentry to the working class.  


As L.P. Hartley wrote in his book The Go-Between, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”  This is what makes social history so interesting both to those of us who study it and to the public.  At the same time, many of the things we think we know about how things were in the past often turn out to be wrong and this creates some unique learning opportunities for those viewing our programs.


Members of the Norfolk Towne Assembly have worked with Living History sites, historic houses, and reenactment groups to demonstrate 18th and early 19th century lifeways, provide interpretation of the political and social aspects of the War of 1812 and the events leading up to it, and provide demonstrations and talks on social customs of the period such as dance and dueling.

We continue to work to develop additional social history programs and welcome suggestions for future research.



Members of the Norfolk Towne Assembly are actively involved in working with youth groups as teachers and mentors. We have helped a youth reenactment group develop their own period dance program for public demonstration, as well as providing information and support to Living History sites for "school day" programs. 


​To learn more about our past activities click HERE: