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date: 08 March 2021

Griffiths, John locked

  • Kate Van Winkle Keller


(fl. 1784–1800). American dancing master and choreographer. Griffiths was the earliest-known choreographer to publish his work in the United States. He issued a collection of country dances and cotillions (Providence, 1788), and an expanded collection with instructions for polite deportment (Northampton, 1794). The whole or partial contents of these books were reprinted by several rural New England and New York publishers over the next 15 years. A broadside of the deportment rules was printed separately. Griffiths based his activities in New York (1784–7, 1796–9?) and Boston (1788–94), and taught in smaller towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and upstate New York. In 1800 he moved to Charleston, South Carolina, perhaps via Philadelphia. Through his publications and itinerant teaching, Griffiths strongly influenced the repertory of social dancing and behavior in New York and New England ballrooms in the early Federal period. Some of his choreographies, notably “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” are still danced today. Griffiths may have composed several tunes for use in his classes, such as “Griffiths Whim,” “Griffiths Fancy,” and “Duo Minuet.” And he may have been related to one of the Griffiths families active on the English stage during the second half of the 18th century....

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