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Magic of Culver’s ‘dance age’ showcased in Feb. program, exhibit

January 25, 2011

A scene from what was likely the first of hundreds of formal dances at Culver Military Academy, circa 1900, held in the former Chautauqua “Tabernacle” building turned gymnasium prior to construction of the school’s first “official” gym. PHOTO: CULVER ACADEMIES ARCHIVES

"Dancing" today may evoke images ranging from celebrities on television competitions to little more than flapping arms and legs in place, but time was when dances at Culver were affaris to be remembered, and social events to which young ladies from Indianapolis to South Bend dreamed of being invited.
A revealing, educational, and entertaining trip back to the golden age of Culver Academy's dances will be showcased at the Culver Academies Museum & Gift Shop, just in time for Valentine's Day. The debut of an exhibit showcasing the artful and historic "dance cards" of Culver's past coincides with a special multimedia program presented by Culver Academies historian Bob Hartman, "Tripping the Light Fantastic," starting at 7 p.m., Thursday, February 10, at the museum, located at 102 South Main Street in downtown Culver.
Between the turn of the 20th century and the mid-1960s, Culver Military Academy was renowned for its formal dances, which attracted the cream of Midwestern society young ladies, some of the great musical talents of the century, and at times famous names and faces to the school. Dances were formal, usually all-night affairs culminating important weekends or events (Thanksgiving, Easter, Commencement) and often showcasing the pomp and regality of Culver for which the institution was famous the world over.
Largely artifacts of a long-gone era, the "dance cards" -- often-colorful booklets graced with original, Culver-centered artwork -- from these events played in important role in the social decorum of the day. The museum will showcase the collection of unique, evocative cards, along with other momentos of the culture of Culver's formal dances, starting on the 10th and running into the springtime.
Hartman's program takes the audience on a fascinating, often-humorous journey to the origins of these cherished Culver events and the role they played in cadet life for so many decades. The free program will take place at the museum; the public is welcome.
The museum may be reached at 574-842-8842, or online via www.culver.org/museum.

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