Historical Dance

Directed by Dorothy Olsson, with Peggy Murray

June 29, 2024-July 6, 2024

Union College
807 Union Street
Schenectady, NY 12308
United States


The Historical Dance program runs during the first week of the Amherst Early Music Festival. The dates of the first week of the Festival are June 30- July 7, 2024, but dancers arrive 1 day early to prepare for opera performance on Friday, July 5. Festival registration is now open!

The theme of this year's Amherst Early Music Festival is "Music of Italy and Spain." The Historical Dance Program reflects that theme, with a focus on dance materials from these regions. The program consists of technique classes and rehearsals (beginning on Saturday, June 29, 2024), and culminates in a fully staged production of Scarlatti’s Il Trionfo dell’Onore.
Participants are entitled to attend many other events (including English country dancing, concert and lectures) in the evenings that are part of the Amherst Early Music Festival. All levels of dancers are welcome.

First-week dancers who wish to audition for the Opera Project (Il Trionfo dell’Onore, by Scarlatti) must arrive early to attend the following sessions: Note: Participation in the opera is reserved for full-time dancers; others are accepted only by audition.

Saturday June 29, 2:00-5:00 pm (with breaks!): *Baroque Dance Technique Class/Rehearsal
Saturday June 29, 6:30-8:00 pm: *Baroque Dance Technique Class/Rehearsal
Sunday June 30, early morning: individual practice time
Sunday June 30, 10:00-11:30 am: *Baroque Dance Technique Class/Rehearsal. (Murray, Olsson)
Sunday June, 1:00-4:00 pm (with breaks!): *Dance Rehearsal for Opera.

*Classes marked by an asterisk will serve as both audition and rehearsal for the dance roles in the Baroque Opera Project (Scarlatti's Il Trionfo dell'Onore, July 5 performance.)


Dance Class Schedule Monday - Friday, July 1-5

9:00-10:30 am. Baroque Dance Technique (Murray, Olsson). Technique class in eighteenth-century dance focusing on steps and phrases from notated French and Italian choreographies by Pécour, Feuillet, Grossatesta and others, including various dance types (passepied, siciliano, menuet, chaconne, bourée, etc.).

10:45 am-12:00 pm. Baroque Dance Topic: Ballare! ¡Bailar! (Murray) A sampling of dance steps and phrases from dances of 17th-and 18th-century Italian and Spanish sources, including works by Grossatesta, Minguet, Ferriol and others.

1:30-3:00 pm. Individual Practice or rest. [Dance studio space will be available.]

3:30-5:30 pm. Dance Rehearsal (Olsson, Murray). Rehearsals for Baroque Opera (Scarlatti’s Il Trionfo dell’Onore, performance Friday evening, July 5, 8:00 pm).Possible evening rehearsals on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Opera dress rehearsal, late Thursday evening.

For over twenty-five years the historical dance program has been a highly successful part of the Amherst Early Music Festival, itself the largest festival of its kind in the world. Students particularly enjoy the opportunity for performance, along with stimulating classes by dance historians and performers.

See the NY Historical Dance Company website for more photos!

Detail of dancing shoes


Peggy Dance

Festival FAQs

Union College
807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308
Close to a major airport (15+ minutes from Albany International Airport), accessible by Amtrak (station is 1 mile from Union College) and Megabus, Union College is 3 hours away by car from NYC and Boston, and 4 hours from Montreal.

The meal card is $178 and covers one week of meals starting with dinner on Sunday, June 30, (July 7 for second week) thru breakfast on Sunday, July 7, (July 14 for second week) .A la carte meal prices are $6.75 / $9.50 / $10.50 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

All standard rooms are air-conditioned with private baths. Budget rate housing is not air-conditioned, with hall baths. Basic linens (sheets, pillow, and towels) are included with all housing. Beds are twin, extra long.


Scholarships & Work-Study


All participants are welcome to apply for tuition assistance through AEM's Work-Study program. Please fill out the work study application form to apply. Notice of awards will be sent in late May. Questions about Work-Study can be sent to Click here to show mail address.

AEM Scholarships

To apply for all AEM scholarships, including the Washington McClain Scholarship, please fill out this form.

The Washington McClain Scholarship Fund honors the memory of Baroque oboist and Amherst Early Music faculty member Washington McClain. It will fund scholarships for students who have historically been underrepresented in the early music field, including African-American, Latinx, and others. Awards will cover tuition, room and board, and travel and may be used for any in-person AEM event, particularly the Amherst Early Music Festival.

In addition to scholarships, AEM offers work study tuition to all of our workshops, and the Amherst Early Music Festival. Work study is an option for students of any age.

Other Organizations

American Recorder Society offers scholarships to recorder players for Weekend Workshops as well as Summer Festivals. Any ARS member who needs financial assistance to attend a weekend or week-long workshop may apply for this scholarship. Deadline: May 15.

Lute Society of America scholarships include full tuition, room & board, and some travel. Due Date May 1.

Early Music America offers scholarships to help students attend early music and historical performance workshops in North America. Applications due April 1.

Viola da Gamba Society of America offers Grants-in-Aid to its members to attend Workshops and Masterclasses.

The Historical Keyboard Society of North America has established the Funaro Fund Award to support its members to offset the cost of traveling to an early keyboard event. 

COVID-19 Policy

The COVID virus is still with us, though happily most people will only get mildly sick if infected. The Festival is a congregate living environment, with a population ranging in age from 1 to 90+ where we live, play music and dance together for several days. Our main approach to preventing Covid will be testing, and, like last year, we need everyone to test and to let us know if they experience symptoms.

Rapid testing is required to attend the Festival for all participants, faculty, and staff. Take an at-home COVID test the day before arrival at Union College, and a second test the morning of arrival. Two-week students take a third test on Saturday July 6. Send a photo of your tests to Click here to show mail address before you arrive on campus. Bring extra tests in case you develop symptoms during the week. (visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.htm… see a list of symptoms)

Masking is optional. Masking decisions are personal and will be respected.

Vaccinations and boosters are encouraged but not required. Anyone with symptoms, or feeling unwell should notify us immediately, and not attend any classes or events. Self evaluation: Before coming to the Festival if you are experiencing symptoms that may indicate Covid, regardless of test results, DO NOT COME. Notify us right away. Anyone who tests positive for Covid at the Festival will be moved to a room in an isolated wing, and have cafeteria meals delivered, or could leave campus.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID before arrival, please do not come to the Festival until your symptoms abate and you have tested negative twice over two days. f you begin to experience symptoms of COVID while at the Festival we will ask you to isolate or leave campus until your symptoms abate and you have tested negative twice over two days

(Updated May 22, 2024)