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the Shakers Dance

            In order of the dances of love, hunting, and war come those used as exorcism, rather, for the purpose of warding off death, sickness, or sorcery. The votaries of such rites, similar in that respect to the Shakers of the Lebanon or to the followers of the Koran who whirl round until their movements graduate into frenzy. Foaming at the mouth, the dancers deem themselves inspired and gifted with powers of prophecy, of curing disease, or of dismissing evil spirits.

   The Shaker movement was started by the "Blessed Mother Anne" Lee (1736-1784) who was formerly a Quaker.

Theirs was originally a celibate sect and worship included many lively songs and dancing of praise to God. Originally of England, they were severely persecuted and found refuge in the United States, mainly New York (Lee settled in Albany.) Because the Shakers were communal and celibate, relying on converts to take up the religion, they are pretty much extinct (a few are left.)

   A century ago, nearly 6000 Shaker brothers and sisters lived together in nineteen communities scattered from Maine to Kentucky. Over the years, the Shakers created many thousands of Songs, Anthems and Hymns. The first Shaker song was written by Father James Whittaker in 1786 entitled "In Yonder Valley." Early dances to these songs were the "Square Order Shuffle" and the "Quick Step Manner". The most famous Shaker dance song was "Simple Gifts" by Elder Joseph Brackett .

   The Shakers who had definite dance patterns as a part of their worship, which came at will during their emotion in worship on obtaining

"the gift" would jerk, shake, wave arms and dance. The Shakers of the Millennium Church came to the United States from England in 1774, duringthe early years of the Revolutionary War (1775-1783.)

The Square-Order Shuffle: see bottom of page.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

USA 1788 Father Joseph Religious

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music preview clip

Music Titles

n/a n/a Video Clip not available at this time 1786 - In Yonder Valley
    Video Clip not available at this time 1813 - Mother
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
1848 - Simple Gifts (Brackett)
    Video Clip not available at this time 1870 - Shakers Dance
    Video Clip not available at this time A Prayer for the Captive
    Video Clip not available at this time Gentle Words
    Video Clip not available at this time Love Is Little
    Video Clip not available at this time Prayer Universal
    Video Clip not available at this time Let Zion Move: Music of the Shakers [CD]

Night Clubs



n/a n/a Albany, New York
    Hancock, MA.
    Sabbath Day Lake, Maine
    United States
Video Clips (pop-up)

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

Video Clip not available at this time 1974 - The Shakers [DVD] n/a n/a
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1984 - Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God [DVD]  
Video Clip not available at this time 1999 - Shakers [DVD]
Video Clip not available at this time Doris Humphrey Legacy: The Shakers [DVD]


Video Clip not available at this time $ Book of Shaker Furniture

Other Related Dances ...

?? Square-Order Shuffle Tarentella Whirling Dervish
?? St. Vitus Dance    
Quakers Dance      
Quick Step Manner      

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Father Joseph Whitaker (c.1780S) n/a Anna Lee (1736-1784)

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
America Learns To Dance Marks, Joseph E. III 1957 Exposition University
The Shaker Experience in America Stein, Stephen, J. 1992 n/a
Simple Gifts, Evolution in dance & Song Brackett, Joseph 1997 Pine Tree Press



Poets / Writers

Cecilia DeVere (1836-1912) Sister R. Mildred Barker n/a
James Whittaker (c.1787)      
Joel Turner (1772-1855)      
Lillian Phillips (1876-1973)  


Richard McNemar (1770-1839)   Shaker Journal

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Circular Saw Ephrata Quakers
Clothes Pin Mennonites Religious Society of Friends
Communal Communities Mormons Revolutionary War
Diversion Musick United Society of Believers
Ecstatic dancing Puritans Canterbury Shakers | Hancock Shakers
The Square-Order Shuffle...
The "Square-Order Shuffle" was the first distinct dance of the Shakers. It was introduced by Father Joseph into Shaker worship in 1788. The dance was danced very solemnly with a forward and back movement of the ranks. The males and females (brethren & Sisters) were in separate groups solemnly shuffling towards and away from each other, taking three paces each way, forward and back, with a double step and an occasional "tip-tap" during the turn.
Shaker Quote: "Hands to Work, Hearts to God"

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Created April 19, 2013 eMail: