The Essence of Old Virginia is also known as the Arkansas Traveler Dance. The Essence of Old Virginia or Virginia Essence was Minstrelsy's most famous dance as it became the first dance that all professional Minstrels needed to learn. In the 1850's Minstrel man Dan Bryant would lead the way for it's acceptance into the Minstrel shows.
The 'Shuffle dance' was to play a major role in it's creation which eventually led the way for the Arkansas Traveler and the Soft Shoe!. The dance is said to be based entirely on the old 'rude plantation Negro' dance material, described as a combination of old 'Darky steps' and intricate
shuffles. The dance when done properly appeared as if the dancer didn't move the feet at all, very smooth, so smooth you would think they wore skates as they progressed forward rapidly.
The Essence eventually lost it's eccentric steps and helped shape the Soft Shoe dance routines, as some say the Soft Shoe was the refinement of the Essence with its graceful movements that eventually became known as a "Class Act". The dance was originally done to 6/8 time, but was later changed to 4/4. The "Essence" is also included in tap dancing (fron Essence and Back Essencs, Double Essence).