On taking your hobbies seriously

At a ball in New Orleans in 1802, the ex-governor Vidal's son insisted on dancing "English contredances," which were easier, or perhaps simply more to his taste, than the French ones. When the young Vidal pushed his privilege too far, and angry shouting match ensued between his entourage and the French:

—Contredanse anglaise!
—Contredanse française!

The military guard, supporting Vidal, unsheathed their bayonets, rifles, and sabres and were at the point of opening fire on the dancers, who were armed with épées and ballroom furniture. The Americans, says an 1803 account of the incident, remained neutral, and, while the French and Spanish men were confronting each other, they took advantage of the situation to slip away with the women. Ultimately the situation was defused, and the French contredanse won the night.

The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square, Ned Sublette

That's one of the lighter moments in what is for the most part a very grim history of one of my favorite cities. Katrina happened just after the author finished research for the book; he wrote another, The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans, that talks about his experiences there.

Leave a Reply