Research on Caribbean dance movement has revealed consistent, ongoing contredanse-related practices since the seventeenth century in the Spanish islands and since the eighteenth century in the French, British, Dutch, and former Danish islands. Despite variation within European influence that distinguishes one area of the Caribbean from another, Africans were generally prohibited from dancing the dances of their origins except on special occasions, like Dias de los reyes in the Spanish islands and at times, at Corpus Christi on other islands, but dancing within their own spaces was well-noticed by colonists and missionaries (e.g., Labat  1972, 401-404). At other times, "dancers of all colors," i.e., Europeans, Europeans born in the Americas or Creoles, (1) and mixed descent persons participated in dance lessons with dance masters, as in the case of Martinique that was observed in 1789 by Mederic Louis Elie Moreau de Saint Mery (40). Dance instruction was in preparation for bals de societe, for special performances after Mass (see Fray Francisco Padilla's 1691 account in Allende-Goitia 2006, 137-138), and for less formal social events on haciendas and plantations (e.g., Fray Inigo Abbad y Lasierra ( 1969, 188-190; Moreau de Saint Mery  1803; Ledru  1957, 47; Bremer  1980, 37-39, 64-65, 72-74; Alonso [1882-1883] 200l, 100-l08).
With few opportunities to continue their own dances, some Africans and their descendants were able to observe the dance training and dance performance of colonial families. Over time, they replaced the African performance that was abhorred by Europeans with imitations, parodies, and creative extensions of the colonial performances that they could observe. At times, African imitations of European court imitations were used to entertain colonists and their guests; however, across the Caribbean, African descendants perfected their versions of European body orientation, dance steps, and dance sequences, stating nonverbally that they, too, could dance socially esteemed dances (Cyrille 1996, 2006; Danie12006). They took from the dominant group what the dominant group valued most: their elaborate dance practices. Just as European performers since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had attempted also through dance performance, African-descended performers signaled good manners and impressive social standing through a variety of contredanse-related performances. Over time, African descendants appropriated European contredanse-derived performance across the entire Caribbean region.
The Caribbean contredanse-derived forms that emerged do not stand together in an obvious manner because of diverse names for similar dance configurations and similar names for very different forms. The following discussion, based on comparative fieldwork and a survey of Caribbean dance practices, attempts to overcome some of these difficulties and to show pointedly that Africans and their descendants asserted their human dignity in the appropriation of certain dance practices, not solely in the French Caribbean but also under all European colonial regimes in the Caribbean. The thrust of this comparative analysis, therefore, is to confirm that "Caribbean quadrilles" by many names express the ongoing, but submerged, agency of African-descended performers and to suggest that an anthropological examination of dance movement can provide additional explanations: 2) for the history of African dance patterns in the Caribbean, 2) for Caribbean dance categorization, 3) for the royal pageantry that is associated with quadrille performance, and 4) for those African-descended women who performed in leadership positions within contredanse-related practices.
The focus of the analysis is different from other Caribbean performance inquiries because it is limited to dance performance primarily and does not include a full or parallel examination of the music performance that is so apparently attached. Music analyses of Caribbean quadrilles have received significantly more research attention while the analysis of dance movement has not been thorough, with only a few important exceptions, nor has it been cross-cultural as this study is within the Caribbean region. A specific focus on the dance movement dimension of performance adds not only to performance understandings, but also to Caribbean culture understanding. (2)
I first witnessed Caribbean quadrille form in 1997 inside a cockfight arena of Sainte-Marie in the northeast of Martinique: it was extraordinary. Above a huge pit with sharply raked seating, I could see the kaleidoscope designs of couples in square formation below, dancing bele form. (3) Not only were the spatial configurations exquisite, but so was the dancing. Fantastic toe pointing, swift rhythmic sequences, swinging and suspended hip gestures, and splendid complementary partnering characterized the dances. I was stunned to see Caribbean square dancing! It was beautiful and intricate. Thereafter, I danced and investigated many types of colonial dance forms, particularly those performed by African descendants.
The dances I found in 1999 on Carriacou in the Grenadines and on Trinidad and Tobago (Nation Dance and belair respectively) mainly emphasized solo and duet performance in front of drums. Consequently, I did not automatically connect these to the ensemble formations just described in Martinique, except as dances from the same general period. Through ninety-year-old Canoute Caliste, however, whose paintings document the main divertissements of the English/Creole-speaking islands, I saw images of Carriacouan kwadril, a festive performance that did parallel Martinican bele.
Compared to the forms on Carriacou and Trinidad, however, another dance was even more relevant. Candombe (a related form that I witnessed in the Rio Plata region of Uruguay in 2002) was as rhythmically textured, codified, varied, and as incredibly graceful as Martinican bele (Olivera Chirimini 2002). The dance was similarly divided into short sections like European contredanse sets, but it culminated in a dance explosion--free, rhythmic fun in African style--just before a departing procession. Unlike most other Caribbean quadrilles, however, candombe was cast in religious ritual (Daniel 2009).
Still candombe echoed line and square dancing from Martinican bele, as well as Haitian affranchi and Cuban tumba francesa, which I knew from previous Caribbean fieldwork (see also Dunham 1983; Yarborough [1958?]; Alen 2987). All involved a series of set dances and repeated floor patterns or spatial configurations, all used a group of male and female dancers and singers, and all dancers retained a noticeably straight posture while dancing, which was replicated in Caliste's paintings. All accentuated drumming within the musical accompaniment, all had variations of European colonial costuming, and all involved elaborate processions with kings and queens dancing or orchestrating the event. Yet, Trinidadian belair and Carriacouan kwadril had sharp contrasts with Martinican bele: the former two in their ensemble forms did not have divided torso movement, while the later was filled with hip flexion, lateral shifts or divided torso galore (cf. MacDonald 1978-79; Ahye 1978). Also, Haitian affranchi and Cuban tumba francesa contrasted with Martinican bele in terms of stately versus playful character, and most differed with Uruguayan candombe and Dominican sarandunga as secular contredanse-derived performances with no religious connections (e.g., Eloidin 2003; Cyrille 2002; Gerstin 1998; Guilbault 1987; Lizardo 1975). These striking similarities and differences made dance categorization relevant to the survey, but also they suggested a trend throughout the circum-Caribbean, as opposed to a French Caribbean or English Caribbean phenomenon. Categorization became more puzzling in 2004, when I examined Puerto Rican, Guadeloupean, and Curacaoan colonial dances (see also Alonso [1882-83] 2001; Allende-Goitia 20o6; Uri and Uri 1991; Suriel ca. 1914-1940).
In 2005-06, I finalized my investigations of contredanse-derived practices, called quadrilles generally across the Caribbean, with fieldwork on seven island practices in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. During that fieldwork, I combined historical inquiry with anthropological research.
Seeking answers from the perspective of a dance anthropologist, one interested in an historical dance form that still existed in the present, I scoured libraries, danced in rehearsals of heritage dance troupes, and interrogated dancers, culture workers, and nonspecialists (Alleyne 1999, 19-45). Most relevant written data were found in reports from fifteenth- to eighteenth-century Catholic clergy as they relayed critical commentaries to European bishops and the Spanish court. Other information was submerged within diaries and accounts from occasional travelers and scientists. Following historian John Chasteen (2004), I looked specifically for social encounters between Europeans and Africans, that is, in early festivals and merrymaking on each representative island. Additionally, I analyzed heritage performance within contemporary dance repertoires and mapped the quadrille types I found within a Caribbean continuum. (4)
The analyses differentiated first among cultural distinctions within the Caribbean, which were primarily identified by language and history. Despite overwhelming French cultural influence on all Europeans from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, important distinctions surfaced among European histories in the Caribbean that affected Caribbean dance histories. For example, the Spanish islands contained festive dancing with both European and African performers in the seventeenth century, while the Dutch islands did not have a sufficient population of dancing Europeans for Africans to imitate until late in the eighteenth century. The analyses also differentiated among dances that were European-derived variations, African-derived variations, or true original creations, i.e., Creole formations. (5) I tried to determine what connected the disparate dance forms that were found: 1) the processions and parades, 2) solos and duets in front of drums, 3) king and queen pageantry, and 4) sets of configured dancing. Figure 1 resulted from my fieldwork survey; its explanation, but mainly its consequences, form the balance of this essay. (6)
The dances that are considered Caribbean quadrilles conform first to set configurations in lines, circles, and squares. Second, quadrille performance exhibits, emphasizes, or parodies elegant, elite, or regal carriage while dancing. The dances vary in their use of more African stylization or more European stylization. Caribbean quadrilles are contrasted at one end by successive solo or couple dancing in front of drums, as found in gwoka, lewoz, rumba, and bomba, and at the other end, by face-to-face couple dancing that characterizes a later, but related, development of dance formation in both European-derived …