Quadrille is traditionally a Euro-centric ballroom dance, taken to the Caribbean in the 18th century by English and French slave traders/masters and regularly performed at grand occasions in great houses. European musicians were transported to the Islands for such occasions to provide specific background music.
The enslaved Africans were stripped of their African cultural identity. They were forbidden to sing their own songs, play their own music, speak their own languages, or do their own dances, e.g. Etu, Gerreh DinkiMini, and Tambo. In order to endure their physical and emotional deprivation and intense pain, they inwardly knew they had to find some form of creative activity to communicate with each other, to keep their spirits high, and to develop and maintain comradeships and community support.
The opportunity arose when the privileged “house slaves” observed and sometimes participated in the quadrille dance, during the grand balls held in the great houses. They secretly demonstrated the BALLROOM STYLE QUADRILLE to the “field slaves”. This was a square dance, performed by 4 couples, involving them moving in unison to the beat of the music, marching up and down in straight lines in upright military posture, and turning their heads and feet from side to side. A strict hierarchical structure of dancing was involved where 2 couples (the head and foot couples) would dance first, whilst the other 2 (side couples) would patiently watched until it was their turn to imitate the movements. The field slaves began to secretly and frivolously mimic and ridicule their slave masters’ and their guests, however, they soon concluded that the ballroom quadrille dance was too restrictive and formal, was more for visual effectiveness and social acceptance, rather than enjoyment. They thought what their masters and guests were doing could not be called “real dancing”. They instinctively knew that when it came to rhythm and dance, embedded in their African Culture. They began to discretely adjust their masters’ formal ballroom dance, eventually developing a new quadrille formation dance known as CAMP STYLE QUADRILLE.