An inconspicuous old church basement is not the place where one would expect a jubilant dance workshop to be held, but most Friday nights a month, The St. Louis English Country Dance troupe dance the night away.
CHS English teacher Dr. Rebecca Taylor is not only a member, but is also the president of this dance troupe.
As president, she organizes the community dances and helps choreograph. Taylor is also a board member of another dance group called Dance Discovery.
Through Dance Discovery, Taylor dresses up in historical costumes, while reenacting dances from many time periods.
Recently, Taylor performed at the Missouri History Museum for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
“We all had to wear hoop skirts. Wearing a hoop skirt is interesting. It floats and you’re a lot wider than you usually are. It was really fun,” Taylor said. “The women kind of looked like blossoms.”
Along with being able to wear various costumes, Taylor explores various cultures through her dancing. In the past year, she has picked up Morris dancing. Morris dance is a form of English Folk dance that requires the use of bells and sticks.
“We have sticks and we dance in groups and hit the sticks together,” Taylor said. “You throw the sticks and hope you don’t get hit and the word is that if you get hit it’s your fault because you’re not paying attention.”
Through these three dancing groups, Taylor is able to meet new people.
“I think the people that I dance with are intelligent and well-informed. Most of them are pretty liberal with a few closet conservatives. It’s very interesting if you run into a conservative person in the middle of a liberal group,” Taylor said. “It’s very different but it’s good.”
As a natural dancer, Taylor incorporates her rhythm into her lessons.
In her sophomore Honors English II class, she integrates this into her teaching of poetry scansion. When students learn iambic pentameter, Taylor encourages them to clap and even dance to the rhythm.
Taylor uses dancing not only to help students learn poetry, but also to gain a deeper understanding of the books she teaches.
Years ago, when she taught Romeo and Juliet, Taylor relied on dancing to explain the books. Her students created masks and Taylor taught them how to dance.
When Taylor teaches 1984, she uses a game called Oranges and Lemons to give the students a glimpse into the time period of 1984.
“You have two people and they hold hands – that comes from the same tradition so that was fun and different anyway,” she said. “It can get a little rowdy, I have to say, [so] you have to make sure the people you pick don’t hurt the people they are trying to catch.”
Taylor’s dancing career has also left a mark in her daily life.
“Sometimes I get ideas for dances. It’s a skill; it’s really cool. Once you’ve done it enough, and you know the moves,” she said. “You hear a piece of music and you go, ‘Oh yeah, butterfly turn signal here.’ You can see it in your head when you hear the music.”
Taylor’s favorite dance is called ‘Le Cat Mercou,’ or the Four Cradles.
“Dr. Ramsay, the male principal dancer [of the troupe] found it on a French website. I was studying French at the time, and my French teacher helped me translate it,” Taylor said. “Then I took it to Ramsay’s house – he saw it was laid out like a quilt, so you have these little blocks and intricate figures. We had to backtrack through the whole thing to figure it out, and it is a wonderful dance.”
Taylor’s motivation behind dancing ties back to her childhood.
“I have always loved to dance. My father is a very good dancer,” Taylor said. “We didn’t dance that much [together] when I was a kid, but I guess I just learned to love it from him.”