Susan de Guardiola was among approximately 100 people who descended upon Newport, R.I., recenly for a week-long dance event organized by the Boston-based Commonwealth Vintage Dancers.
Ms. de Guardiola, director of the Elegant Arts Society, an organization dedicated principally to dance, dress, and amusements of the 19th century, was in Newport to attend classes and balls, have tea, and play old-time games like croquet and badminton with other vintage dance enthusiasts from as far away as Japan and California. A dance scholar, Hannah Artuso, working with Patri Pugliese, a founding member of the board of directors of the Society of Dance History Scholars, organized the conference.
According to Ms. de Guardiola, attendees danced "for pleasure and to enjoy each other's company, not for an audience or a judge." Besides, she said, it's a fun, low-impact exercise.
Other attendees echoed her thoughts. "There's camaraderie and no competition," Marie-Jo Coclet said. She and her husband Michael used to live in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Staten Island, but now resides north of San Diego, Calif. "It's people helping each other," Mr. Coclet said.
The couple certainly looked the part. Mr. Coclet wore a Panama hat and a summer white silk jacket with matching pants. Inside his metal-tipped walking stick was a hidden compartment that held a test tube that could hold a small drink that was, he said with a smile, a "restorative." Mrs. Coclet, an art and dance historian, wore an authentic 1910 yellow cotton dress. Now a translator for organizations such as the World Bank, Mr. Coclet used to teach French literature and language in New Jersey at Douglass College, the women's college at Rutgers.
Also among the group was Rosemary Ponzo, a costume designer from New York City, wearing a veil, and Jane Allocca of Bristol, Conn., wearing a cameo surrounded by a twist of gold.
The Knickerbocker spoke with Dianne and Layman Jones of Buffalo, N.Y. She collects women's vintage clothing betweem 1880 and 1920, while he collects top hats, bowlers, boaters, morning suits, tail suits, and walking sticks. Each year they attend Newport Vintage Dance week, taking a different route from Buffalo, and visit antique shops. Ms. Jones said the car practically turns itself on the road upon passing any red, white, and blue flag that says "Antiques."
Asked about trends in vintage clothing, Ms. Jones said more people are displaying their clothes in their own home, rather than wearing the outfits.
After attending a morning show Saturday of horse-drawn carriages, hosted by the Preservation Society of Newport County, the vintage-dancing group had a picnic lunch.
Seated was a retired landscape architect, Al Seabra of Raritan, N.J., who took up vintage dancing after attending a weekend in Cape May, N.J., hosted by an expert on American social dance, Richard Powers, who now teaches at Stanford University.
Suzanne Fisher of New Orleans compared the week to "a family reunion with people that you like better than your real family." Mr. Seabra said members were considerate of each other. "We try to emulate old manners," he said. But Ms. Fisher said they do not engage in role paying. "We don't do characters, this is genuine."
Ms. Fisher said also that their activities inspire good manners in others. When they see them dressed in period attire, people on the street will tip their hats — "their baseball caps."