Late 18th century

Significant dances

The Hornpipe was a popular, show-off dance, primarily practiced by British sailors. John Durang, the first great American dancer and popular performer, created his renowned Hornpipe dance in Philadelphia from steps he learned from Canadian and British immigrants. With its sailor-inspired moves, it was most popular during 1780-1800; Durang’s son recorded it in 1855. Durang first danced the hornpipe at a ball at age 17, and continued to perform it as an entre’acte and afterpiece in music halls and private parties throughout his career. Mr. Hoffmaster, a dwarf, composed the music for “Durang’s Hornpipe.”

Historical context

  • The French Revolution and Reign of Terror occur.
  • The American Revolution ends; the constitution is signed and two political parties formed.
  • George Washington becomes the first President.
  • The Declaration of Independence is written.
  • The Holy Roman Empire declares war on France.


  • Wordsworth, Rousseau, Goethe, Blake, and Kant produced important works in this period.


  • Important composers from this period were Mozart and Haydn.
  • The Paris Conservatoire of Music was founded.

Visual arts:

  • The Louvre becomes the French National Gallery.


  • Important inventions include the cotton gin, circular saw, spinning machine, and fountain pen.

Daily life:

  • US law compels runaway slaves to return to their owners.
  • England introduces income tax.
  • France grants its citizens freedom of worship and press, and makes education compulsory from age six.

Relevant Dancetime Publications DVDs

DANCETIME DVD! 500 YEARS OF SOCIAL DANCE, Volume I: 15th-19th Centuries: Hornpipe

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