Dancing and Swimming

Dance comprised an integral part of the curriculum for physical education students at the turn of the century. Most trained in the wildly popular style of aesthetic dancing, but students also learned tap dancing, ballet, and folk dances from around the world. Study of more formal styles imparted grace, coordination, and a sense of movement and rhythm, all qualities that carried over into other athletic pursuits. Folk dances not only opened students' eyes to foreign cultures but also prepared them to teach immigrant students. As the century progressed, the dance curriculum broadened to include jazz and other types of modern dance. Students not only learned the forms but also began to choreograph their own works. Regularly staged shows afforded the opportunity to demonstrate both skills.


Aesthetic or synchronized swimming incorporated many of the elements that had long informed the teaching of dance, including grace, coordination, strength, and rhythmic skill. Just as dancers learned the principles of choreography, amateur swimmers and members of the swim club became proficient and creative natatographers, preparing complex routines for their own schedule of performances. The athletic ability and grace formed through swimming informed the students' other sporting interests, and the swim programs rapidly became as much a point of pride as hockey matches or tennis tournaments.


Dancer in Greek costume, Camp Abena, Maine, June 1915 (view one).
Dancers in Greek costume holding hands in a circle, Camp Abena, Maine, June 1915.
Bouvé students perform the swim show, "Fiftieth Anniversary Sale," during parents' weekend
Dance program
Students learn American square dancing
Dance group production of "The Night Before Christmas"
Students dance in class day performance
Etudes Modernes
Bouvé students practice new technique for modern dance class