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In step with English country dancer Ruth Verbunt

Frans and Ruth Verbunt at a previous Jane Austen Summer Program ball.

Ruth Verbunt and her husband, Frans, are familiar faces to returning attendees of the Jane Austen Summer Program. Ruth gave a talk last year on mourning wear, displaying several pieces and resources in her collection. Plus, she and Frans know their way around the dance floor, helping to teach the dances to attendees. We chatted with Ruth about her love of English country dancing and more.

How did you become interested in Regency dancing?

I fell in love with English country dancing while watching the dance scenes in the 1995 version of “Pride & Prejudice.” When we moved to Greensboro seven years ago, my husband and I had a chance to learn to dance and it very quickly became our hobby. 

Any advice for first-time dancers — or first-timers who are looking for a period-inspired outfit to wear to the ball?

First-time dancers could  buy or borrow a “Regency gown” of course. Otherwise, wearing a favorite outfit is great. The one thing I would advise is doing your hair in the regency style and wearing flat shoes. To add to the “look,” perhaps wear a simple cameo necklace or pendant on a ribbon and wear long gloves if you have them. Maybe carry a fan too. Just have fun with it.

What is your favorite dance and why? 

It has to be the 1995 movie version of “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot,” a lovely stately dance, which is the based on the original 1695 Playford version — which is a lively and fun dance! It also illustrates how alive the art form is after more than 300 years.

You’re part of the Regency Assembly of North Carolina. Is it open to anyone?

Actually my husband and I founded the Regency Assembly of North Carolina in January 2011 when we realized there was no “assembly of like minded history enthusiasts”  to dance, picnic, sew and hang out together. There are “closed groups” for museum professionals and serious costumers in our state, but we really wanted a way to welcome newcomers to the hobby. Most of all we wanted to teach others to dance.

What if you mess up during a dance? “Just ‘dance through’ the flubs you make – keep dancing!”
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What’s the most important Regency-era etiquette tip to remember at a ball?

When the dance is called out and the dance set forms, please go to the BOTTOM of the set. It is not at all proper to rush to the head of the set, once the lines of partners begin to form. Conversely, please do not walk off the dance floor in the middle of the dance! Just “dance through” the flubs you make – keep dancing!

What are you looking forward to most at JASP?

We love the entire idea of JASP and enjoy it ALL!  But the Ball, with it’s period music and dancing in Gerrard Hall, remains our favorite aspect of it.

Who’s your favorite character in “Emma”?

Mr. Knightley ! My dear husband reminds me of him — patient, even-tempered and a good dancer!


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