"The Norfolk Towne Assembly promotes an understanding
of American society and culture in the
Early Republic (1785 - 1830) era
through historic dance performance, social history talks,
and other Living History interpretive activities."
The Norfolk Towne Assembly (NTA) has a variety of programs designed for the education of our members and the public. These include:
DANCE DEMONSTRATIONS AND EVENTS
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 well-to-do, 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 (NTA) has provided period dance demos, usually combined with some simple audience participation dances, to service clubs, youth organizations, historic sites and living history events. These demos, particularly the audience participation part, are always popular. These dance programs are tailored, as appropriate to the situation, and represent all levels of society, from the Gentry to the working class.
Public balls were held throughout the 18th and early-19th centuries to celebrate or commemorate notable events or dates. For instance, in 1824, when the Marquis de Lafayette visited Norfolk during his almost 2-year tour of the country as the guest of the United States, Norfolk held a public ball in his honor on the upper floor of the Customs House, the only venue large enough to accommodate the expected crowds.
Today's NTA also holds public balls, which we model on the balls of the past. Featuring period music, decorations, and dances, they have been very popular with attendees. In the past, some of them have featured period foods, and other diversions such as period games and silhouette artists. We intend to continue the tradition of public balls going forward.
SOCIAL/CULTURAL HISTORY TALKS
As L.P. Hartley wrote in the opening line of the Prologue to 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, it often makes the past difficult for the public to comprehend. These days many of the things we think we know about the past are based upon movies and various works of fiction and thus often turn out to be wrong.
This creates some unique learning opportunities for those viewing our programs. Members of the Norfolk Towne Assembly have worked with living history events, historic houses, and other groups to demonstrate 18th and early 19th century lifeways, provide interpretation of the political and social aspects of the early years of this country and the War of 1812, and provide demonstrations and talks on social customs of the period such as foodways, dance, and dueling.
While these are a few of our accomplishments we continue to work to develop additional dance, living history, and social/cultural history programs and welcome suggestions for future activities. To learn more about our past activities click HERE:
The NTA blog "The Academy of Knowledge" is another source of information for education on the political, social, and military history of the period. New articles are published approximately every two weeks. If you haven't done so already, we invite you to sample the articles published there