Quadrille

quadrille

By Deborah O. Caines

Quadrille in the Virgin Islands is a traditional folk dance. It is similar to a square dance and is a combination of French and African cultural influences. It was introduced to the Virgin Islands in the late 1700s and was usually performed by the French Europeans at balls and fetes of the upper social class. The slaves then adopted this custom of dancing the Quadrille whenever they had a celebration.

Today on St. Croix, Quadrille is performed at public locations such as St. Gerard’s Hall, at public school festivities, and also at harbor sites where tourist are entertained. It is usually danced with the island’s indigenous music, Quelbe, performed by scratch bands such as Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights and Bully and the Kafooners.

Everyone enjoys watching the dancers as they “tournez” and “balancez” rhythmically to the commands of the floor master. Their colorful traditional madras costumes and matching head-ties add vibrancy to the performances. The tying of the head-tie is an art and has significant meaning.
A head-tie with one point signifies that a lady is single; two points mean that the lady is married; three points mean that the lady is widowed, divorced, or available, and four points mean that she is available.

I became a member and later vice-president of the Ay- Ay Cultural Dance Group because I wanted to be a part of promoting my culture. I enjoy working with Kendall Henry, President, who is dedicated to keeping the culture of the Virgin Islands alive. He volunteers his time to teach Quadrille the traditional way to both adults and students.

The group is currently working on an instructional DVD and CD on the art of dancing Quadrille. This will be done in conjunction with WTJX and Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, the most famous Quelbe band in the Virgin Islands. It will be available to private and public schools, to help future generations preserve the culture of the Quadrille.

Photo:  Beautiful and elegant Deborah Caines wearing traditional local Madras attire as she prepares to perform with other Quadrille dancers.  Denise Bennerson, Photographer

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