Thursday, September 24, 2020

A RURAL BALLROOM by Marisa Masterson

 When I think of regency novels, a ballroom comes to mind. Wealthy women creating a rainbow as they twirl past on the parquet dance floor. Men in fine black coats and crisp white shirts. In the background an orchestra plays a waltz, perhaps by Strauss.

A beautiful scene. No wonder the poorer classes wanted to imitate the experience. Because of that, the tradition of barn dances was born in Scotland in the nineteenth century. With the high number of immigrants coming to the United States during the last half of that century, this imitation of the celebrations amongst the wealthy classes came along with Scottish newcomers.

For some today, mention of a barn dance brings to mind a hillbilly with a corn cob pipe blowing on a moonshine jug and an equally hick man playing a harmonica. I only have to watch something like Looney Tunes to see this.

Actually, that image is far from the truth. Since barn dances were meant to bring the ballroom to the rural setting as well as to be celebrations, rural folk would change into their best clothes. A caller would dominate the night to guide dancers through the steps of songs. The most talented musicians available played, filling the night with popular tunes as well as commonly recognized folk songs.

Growing up on a farm, I've wondered where the people actually found room in a barn to dance. Picture a typical barn or stable. Stalls dominate the space. Perhaps a hay mow could be used, but if the people held the dance in honor of the harvest, that would be filled. 

From what I can tell, any open space in a barn was used. So, as a farm girl, I image couples dancing down the aisle with the stalls on each side. I can see why they would take advantage of a brand new barn with it's empty space to have a dance. 

Many barn dances were done in sets of people. That makes sense if they are perhaps pushed to find space to dance in an empty stall.

Whether to celebrate a harvest, a holiday, a wedding, or a barn raising, the idea of a barn dance continues in our cultural memory. When I think of the pioneers and the westward expansion, I always imagine communities celebrating with this type of party. So, grab your partner, join my set, and dance in a square with me while I celebrate September and the beginning of harvest.

Want more barn dance? Here's one of my books with a key scene happening at a barn dance.

With a new name, Grace Winkelman fled west to teach in a small town. How could she anticipate her past following her that far?

Errol Marsden wandered for years, taking his cobbler's wagon from town to town fixing shoes. His heart broke with the sudden death of his young wife almost four years before. He's shocked to glimpse her on a street in Fort Bridger and follows her to Belle.

Will he get the answers he needs to understand why she faked her death? When the couple is drawn into the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Grace's aunt, will they work together or let old lies stand in their way?

This is a sweet, American western historical romance and mystery. 


  1. I remember reading this book, but I need to refresh my memory. So, I will read it again!!

  2. I think sometimes the dance was held on bare dirt when no indoor space was available. The dances were an important part of community life. Nice post, Marisa.

  3. Today we think so little of traveling a few miles, but back then, it might be an all day drive in a wagon to get to town. These social events were a big deal!

    1. Yes, the isolation on the farms made events like this so special.

  4. Grandpa and Grandma met at a dance like this.


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