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Mind Openers: Life, Liberty and Dancing


By Bethany Powers '11, Photos by Henry Lim

Published Jul 1, 2009 8:00 AM


Dancers practice newly learned steps in the elegant Powell Library Rotunda.

Step out of the 21st century and back into a period where women in sweeping ball gowns were asked to dance by impeccably dressed gentlemen. Gracefully glide across the floor with your partner and imagine what it would have been like during the late 18th century.

At the Revolutionary Ball, held in the Powell Library Building Rotunda, you can learn how our forefathers entertained themselves. Great dancers, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, had the respect and admiration of their fellow early Americans.


Dancers dress in everything from sundresses and prom-style formal gowns to period costume at the historical dances.

"Knowing how to dance well was really a political statement," says Cynthia Harper, one of the instructors of the ball.

She and her co-instructor, James Zimmer, are guest lecturers at UCLA and teach seven different themed dances throughout the year, from time periods like the Renaissance and the Roaring '20s.

The dance will be a spectacular adventure into an art that has become foreign to us. Zimmer and Harper will lead you on a four-hour historical journey that includes period music.

Dancing was an important way to socialize during the Revolutionary Era, and attendees will get a unique perspective on how much dancing has changed over the last 200 years. The instructors research every part of the evening, making it as much of a re-creation of an actual Revolutionary Ball as possible.

Attendees are welcome to dress up, but a costume is not required. Zimmer emphasizes that prior experience is not necessary at all, and that the event is open to participants of all ages.

And the price for learning to dance like the Washingtons? Absolutely free.

Revolutionary Ball. Saturday, July 25, 8 p.m. to midnight. Powell Library, 2nd Floor Rotunda. Free with registration. E-mail Cathy Brown at by July 23 with the name and number of people in your party. For more information, call (310) 206-4608 or visit the library's events page.