by Meredith Brockriede
A group of women gathered on a warm, early November day in the chapel of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. For two hours they stirred up the church floor dust with dances that might have been enjoyed at the Santa Barbara Presidio over 200 years ago. They learned two dances: La Varsouvianna (The Little Foot Dance), so named in honor of Mount Vesuvius, and La Valse Jota (The Waltz Dance). Both pieces included partner and group work. As workshop instructor Diana Replogle-Purinton mentioned in her earlier blog post, these social dances would have been one of the only acceptable opportunities for young men and women to touch and be in close proximity unchaperoned.
The group, which included both experienced dancers and beginners, caught on to both dances quickly. Missteps were an opportunity for a chuckle, and over the two-hour workshop there was much laughter! Participants could easily see how dancing would have been an enjoyable pastime for the early California settlers and their descendants. After the dancers had tired of spinning and hopping, they retired to the presidio courtyard for lemonade and cookies.
Diana Replogle-Purinton, director of the historic dance group Las Fiesteras, led an engaging, informative and, most importantly, fun workshop on the dances of Early California. Las Fiesteras, which was first established in 1933, is always looking for Californian-born women interested in early California folk-dancing to join its ranks. For more information about Las Fiesteras, please contact Diana Replogle-Purinton at email@example.com. You can also find the group on Facebook by searching “Last Fiesteras Dance Group” (or click the link). Las Fiesteras is sponsored by the Reina del Mar Parlor #126 of Native Daughters of the Golden West.
Meredith Brockriede is the Education Assistant and Receptionist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
You can see the talented Diana Replogle-Purinton perform in Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s 37th annual production of The Nutcracker at the Arlington Theatre on December 10th and 11th. Don’t miss this Santa Barbara tradition!