Performing and Visual Arts

Dominica's Quadrilles

Quadrille

The Quadrilles of Dominica are European-derived sequences with a strong African influence in expression. They are made up of four (4) figures and take twenty to twenty-five minutes from beginning to end.

This four-couple square dance was in past days done as social entertainment. Today the dance is performed by special interest groups mainly for the National Independence Competitions and Floor shows.

Although sequences of the quadrille vary from one area to another on the island, there is similarity among them. The first figure is considered as an introduction, the second figure emphasizes flirtation with opposite partners, the third figure has a military march rhythm, and in the fourth figure the males flirt with their Danms and the Danms opposite to them.

The sequences of the quadrilles have descriptive names - most in Creole language (Ballansé, Danm Etwanjé), and in the case of the Woodford Hill Quadrille, some Kokoy language terms are used (All-man-a-go, chip-it-up). The male dancer is known as the Kavalyé and the female dancer is known as the Danm. When standing in formation, the couple with their backs to the musicians and the opposite couple are known as the head couples, and the couples with their sides to the band are known as the side couples. The dance follows a format where the head couples dance the sequence first followed by the side couples.

The Wob Dwiyet is the most popular mode of dress for the Danms while the Kavalyés dress in black long pants, white long sleeve shirts, and a red sash or cummerbund around the waist, and/or madras sash over the shoulder, and/or a bow tie, and/or a waist coast. The foot wear is usually hard (leather) sole shoes - Danms shoes usually have a heel almost 1.5 inches high.

Important to the dance is the graceful and elegant style of all movements done by the dancers. The Danms depicting an aristocratic Creole style (gam kopawézo) should complement the kavalyés. The Kavalyés do fancy foot-work (not over done) while entertaining and flirting with the Danms. The Kavalyé lead the Danms.

Musical accompaniment is provided by the Jing Ping Band (traditional musical ensemble of Dominica). The accompanying musicians require a good understanding of the dance as they will sometimes need to change the rhythm to suit the dance step being done.

The areas where different types of quadrilles are found are in the North and West of the island and also in Petite Savanne, La Plaine, Petite Soufriere, Woodfordhill, Tete Morne and Grand Fond.

The Division of Culture is now in the process of documenting the eight quadrilles of Dominica - this will include a written description of the steps and sequences, photographs, audio and video recordings and a guide for teaching the dance.

Extracted from: Dominica's Arts & Culture Magazine, Division of Culture, 1994
by Daryl Phillip