Although there is no record of Washington studying with a dance teacher, and rumors suggest that he was self-taught, the first U.S. President was widely known as a superb dancer.
One anecdote has Washington performing a minuet before French officers who admitted that his dancing could not be improved by any Parisian instructor. Washington’s dancing of a minuet in 1779 with Henry Knox’s wife Lucy inspired the following tribute from The Pennsylvania packet:
“The ball was opened by his Excellency the General. When this man unbends from his station, and its weighty functions, he is even then like a philosopher, who mixes with the amusements of the world, that he may teach it what is right, or turn trifles into instruction.”
This according to George Washington: A biography in social dance by Kate Van Winkle Keller (Sandy Hook: Hendrickson Group, 1998).
Today is Washington’s 280th birthday! Below, a minuet of the type that he would have danced.
Related article: Woodrow Wilson, lyric tenor