Monday, June 9, 2014

Manners on Monday ~ Etiquette For The Ballroom

From -The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness by Cecil B. Hartley

Of all the amusements open for young people, none is more delightful and more popular than dancing. Lord Chesterfield, in his letters to his son, says: “Dancing is, in itself, a very trifling and silly thing; but it is one of those established follies to which people of sense are sometimes obliged to conform; and then they should be able to do it well. And, though I would not have you a dancer, yet, when you do dance, I would have you dance well, as I would have you do everything you do well.” In another letter, he writes: “Do you mind your dancing while your dancing master is with you? As you will be often under the necessity of dancing a minuet, I would have you dance it very well. Remember that the graceful motion of the arms, the giving of your hand, and the putting off and putting on of your hat genteelly, are the material parts of a gentleman’s dancing. But the greatest advantage of dancing well is, that it necessarily teaches you to present yourself, to sit, stand, and walk genteelly; all of which are of real importance to a man of fashion.”
Although the days are over when gentlemen carried their hats into ball rooms and danced minuets, there are useful hints in the quotations given above. Nothing will give ease of manner and a graceful carriage to a gentleman more surely than the knowledge of dancing. He will, in its practice, acquire easy motion, a light step, and learn to use both hands and feet well. What can be more awkward than a man who continually finds his hands and feet in his way, and, by his fussy movements, betrays his trouble? A good dancer never feels this embarrassment, consequently he never appears aware of the existence of his feet, and carries his hands and arms gracefully. Some people being bashful and afraid of attracting attention in a ball room or evening party, do not take lessons in dancing, overlooking the fact that it is those who do not partake of the amusement on such occasions, not those who do, that attract attention. To all such gentlemen I would say; Learn to dance. You will find it one of the very best plans for correcting bashfulness. Unless you possess the accomplishments that are common in polite society, you can neither give nor receive all the benefits that can be derived from social intercourse.
When you receive an invitation to a ball, answer it immediately.
If you go alone, go from the dressing-room to the ball room, find your host and hostess, and speak first to them; if there are several ladies in the house, take the earliest opportunity of paying your respects to each of them, and invite one of them to dance with you the first dance. If she is already engaged, you should endeavor to engage her for a dance later in the evening, and are then at liberty to seek a partner amongst the guests.
 When you have engaged a partner for a dance, you should go to her a few moments before the set for which you have engaged her will be formed, that you may not be hurried in taking your places upon the floor. Enquire whether she prefers the head or side place in the set, and take the position she names.
In inviting a lady to dance with you, the words, “Will you honor me with your hand for a quadrille?” or, “Shall I have the honor of dancing this set with you?” are more used now than “Shall I have the pleasure?” or, “Will you give me the pleasure of dancing with you?”
Offer a lady your arm to lead her to the quadrille, and in the pauses between the figures endeavor to make the duty of standing still less tiresome by pleasant conversation. Let the subjects be light, as you will be constantly interrupted by the figures in the dance. There is no occasion upon which a pleasant flow of small talk is more àpropos, and agreeable than in a ball room.
When the dance is over, offer your arm to your partner, and enquire whether she prefers to go immediately to her seat, or wishes to promenade. If she chooses the former, conduct her to her seat, stand near her a few moments, chatting, then bow, and give other gentlemen an opportunity of addressing her. If she prefers to promenade, walk with her until she expresses a wish to sit down. Enquire, before you leave her, whether you can be of any service, and, if the supper-room is open, invite her to go in there with you.
You will pay a delicate compliment and one that will certainly be appreciated, if, when a lady declines your invitation to dance on the plea of fatigue or fear of fatigue, you do not seek another partner, but remain with the lady you have just invited, and thus imply that the pleasure of talking with, and being near, her, is greater than that of dancing with another.
Let your hostess understand that you are at her service for the evening, that she may have a prospect of giving her wall flowers a partner, and, however unattractive these may prove, endeavor to make yourself as agreeable to them as possible.
Your conduct will differ if you escort a lady to a ball. Then your principal attentions must be paid to her. You must call for her punctually at the hour she has appointed, and it is your duty to provide the carriage. You may carry her a bouquet if you will, this is optional. A more elegant way of presenting it is to send it in the afternoon with your card, as, if you wait until evening, she may think you do not mean to present one, and provide one for herself.
When you arrive at your destination, leave the carriage, and assist her in alighting; then escort her to the lady’s dressing-room, leave her at the door, and go to the gentlemen’s dressing-room. As soon as you have arranged your own dress, go again to the door of the lady’s room, and wait until your companion comes out. Give her your left arm and escort her to the ball room; find the hostess and lead your companion to her. When they have exchanged greetings, lead your lady to a seat, and then engage her for the first dance. Tell her that while you will not deprive others of the pleasure of dancing with her, you are desirous of dancing with her whenever she is not more pleasantly engaged, and before seeking a partner for any other set, see whether your lady is engaged or is ready to dance again with you. You must watch during the evening, and, while you do not force your attentions upon her, or prevent others from paying her attention, you must never allow her to be alone, but join her whenever others are not speaking to her. You must take her in to supper, and be ready to leave the party, whenever she wishes to do so.
If the ball is given in your own house, or at that of a near relative, it becomes your duty to see that every lady, young or old, handsome or ugly, is provided with a partner, though the oldest and ugliest may fall to your own share.
Never stand up to dance unless you are perfect master of the step, figure, and time of that dance. If you make a mistake you not only render yourself ridiculous, but you annoy your partner and the others in the set.
If you have come alone to a ball, do not devote yourself entirely to any one lady. Divide your attentions
amongst several, and never dance twice in succession with the same partner.
To affect an air of secrecy or mystery when conversing in a ball-room is a piece of impertinence for which no lady of delicacy will thank you.
When you conduct your partner to her seat, thank her for the pleasure she has conferred upon you, and do not remain too long conversing with her.
Give your partner your whole attention when dancing with her. To let your eyes wander round the room, or to make remarks betraying your interest in others, is not flattering, as she will not be unobservant of your want of taste.
Be very careful not to forget an engagement. It is an unpardonable breach of politeness to ask a lady to dance with you, and neglect to remind her of her promise when the time to redeem it comes.
A dress coat, dress boots, full suit of black, and white or very light kid gloves must be worn in a ball room. A white waistcoat and cravat are sometimes worn, but this is a matter of taste.
Never wait until the music commences before inviting a lady to dance with you.
If one lady refuses you, do not ask another who is seated near her to dance the same set. Do not go immediately to another lady, but chat a few moments with the one whom you first invited, and then join a group or gentlemen friends for a few moments, before seeking another partner.
Never dance without gloves. This is an imperative rule. It is best to carry two pair, as in the contact with dark dresses, or in handing refreshments, you may soil the pair you wear on entering the room, and will thus be under the necessity of offering your hand covered by a soiled glove, to some fair partner. You can slip unperceived from the room, change the soiled for a fresh pair, and then avoid that mortification.
If your partner has a bouquet, handkerchief, or fan in her hand, do not offer to carry them for her. If she finds they embarrass her, she will request you to hold them for her, but etiquette requires you not to notice them, unless she speaks of them first.
 Do not be the last to leave the ball room. It is more elegant to leave early, as staying too late gives others the impression that you do not often have an invitation to a ball, and must “make the most of it.”
Some gentlemen linger at a private ball until all the ladies have left, and then congregate in the supper-room, where they remain for hours, totally regardless of the fact that they are keeping the wearied host and his servants from their rest. Never, as you value your reputation as a gentleman of refinement, be among the number of these “hangers on.”
The author of a recent work on etiquette, published in England, gives the following hints for those who go to balls. He says:—
“When inviting a lady to dance, if she replies very politely, asking to be excused, as she does not wish to dance (‘with you,’ being probably her mental reservation), a man ought to be satisfied. At all events, he should never press her to dance after one refusal. The set forms which Turveydrop would give for the invitation are too much of the deportment school to be used in practice. If you know a young lady slightly, it is sufficient to say to her, ‘May I have the pleasure of dancing this waltz, &c., with you?’ or if intimately, ‘Will you dance, Miss A—?’ The young lady who has refused one gentleman, has no right to accept another for that dance; and young ladies who do not wish to be annoyed, must take care not to accept two gentlemen for the same dance. In Germany such innocent blunders often cause fatal results. Two partners arrive at the same moment to claim the fair one’s hand; she vow she has not made a mistake; ‘was sure she was engaged to Herr A—, and not to Herr B—;’ Herr B— is equally certain that she was engaged to him. The awkwardness is, that if he at once gives her up, he appears to be indifferent about it; while, if he presses his suit, he must quarrel with Herr A—, unless the damsel is clever enough to satisfy both of them; and particularly if there is an especial interest in Herr B—, he yields at last, but when the dance is over, sends a friend to Herr A—. Absurd as all this is, it is common, and I have often seen one Herr or the other walking about with a huge gash on his cheek, or his arm in a sling, a few days after a ball.
“Friendship, it appears, can be let out on hire. The lady who was so very amiable to you last night, has a right to ignore your existence to-day. In fact, a ball room acquaintance rarely goes any farther, until you have met at more balls than one. In the same way a man cannot, after being introduced to a young lady to dance with, ask her to do so more than twice in the same evening. A man may dance four or even five times with the same partner. On the other hand, a real well-bred man will wish to be useful, and there are certain people whom it is imperative on him to ask to dance—the daughters of the house, for instance, and any young ladies whom he may know intimately; but most of all the well-bred and amiable man will sacrifice himself to those plain, ill-dressed, dull looking beings who cling to the wall, unsought and despairing. After all, he will not regret his good nature. The spirits reviving at the unexpected invitation, the wall-flower will pour out her best conversation, will dance her best, and will show him her gratitude in some way or other.
“The formal bow at the end of a quadrille has gradually dwindled away. At the end of every dance you offer your right arm to your partner, (if by mistake you offer the left, you may turn the blunder into a pretty compliment, by reminding her that is le bras du cœur, nearest the heart, which if not anatomically true, is, at least, no worse than talking of a sunset and sunrise), and walk half round the room with her. You then ask her if she will take any refreshment, and, if she accepts, you convey your precious allotment of tarlatane to the refreshment room to be invigorated by an ice or negus, or what you will. It is judicious not to linger too long in this room, if you are engaged to some one else for the next dance. You will have the pleasure of hearing the music begin in the distant ball room, and of reflecting that an expectant fair is sighing for you like Marianna—
“He cometh not,” she said.
She said, “I am a-weary a-weary,
I would I were in bed;”
which is not an unfrequent wish in some ball rooms. A well-bred girl, too, will remember this, and always offer to return to the ball room, however interesting the conversation.
“If you are prudent you will not dance every dance, nor in fact, much more than half the number on the list; you will then escape that hateful redness of face at the time, and that wearing fatigue the next day which are among the worst features of a ball. Again, a gentleman must remember that a ball is essentially a lady’s party, and in their presence he should be gentle and delicate almost to a fault, never pushing his way, apologizing if he tread on a dress, still more so if he tears it, begging pardon for any accidental annoyance he may occasion, and addressing every body with a smile. But quite unpardonable are those men whom one sometimes meets, who, standing in a door-way, talk and laugh as they would in a barrack or college-rooms, always coarsely, often indelicately. What must the state of their minds be, if the sight of beauty, modesty, and virtue, does not awe them into silence! A man, too, who strolls down the room with his head in the air, looking as if there were not a creature there worth dancing with, is an ill-bred man, so is he who looks bored; and worse than all is he who takes too much champagne.
“If you are dancing with a young lady when the supper-room is opened, you must ask her if she would like to go to supper, and if she says ‘yes,’ which, in 999 cases out of 1000, she certainly will do, you must take her thither. If you are not dancing, the lady of the house will probably recruit you to take in some chaperon. However little you may relish this, you must not show your disgust. In fact, no man ought to be disgusted at being able to do anything for a lady; it should be his highest privilege, but it is not—in these modern unchivalrous days—perhaps never was so. Having placed your partner then at the supper-table, if there is room there, but if not at a side-table, or even at none, you must be as active as Puck in attending to her wants, and as women take as long to settle their fancies in edibles as in love-matters, you had better at once get her something substantial, chicken, pâté de foie gras, mayonnaise, or what you will. Afterwards come jelly and trifle in due course.
“A young lady often goes down half-a-dozen times to the supper-room—it is to be hoped not for the purpose of eating—but she should not do so with the same partner more than once. While the lady is supping you must stand by and talk to her, attending to every want, and the most you may take yourself is a glass of champagne when you help her. You then lead her up stairs again, and if you are not wanted there any more, you may steal down and do a little quiet refreshment on your own account. As long, however, as there are many ladies still at the table, you have no right to begin. Nothing marks a man here so much as gorging at supper. Balls are meant for dancing, not eating, and unfortunately too many young men forget this in the present day. Lastly, be careful what you say and how you dance after supper, even more so than before it, for if you in the slightest way displease a young lady, she may fancy that you have been too partial to strong fluids, and ladies never forgive that. It would be hard on the lady of the house if every body leaving a large ball thought it necessary to wish her good night. In quitting a small dance, however, a parting bow is expected. It is then that the pretty daughter of the house gives you that sweet smile of which you dream afterwards in a gooseberry nightmare of ‘tum-tum-tiddy-tum,’ and waltzes à deux temps, and masses of tarlatane and bright eyes, flushed cheeks and dewy glances. See them to-morrow, my dear fellow, it will cure you.
“I think flirtation comes under the head of morals more than of manners; still I may be allowed to say that ball room flirtation being more open is less dangerous than any other. A prudent man will never presume on a girl’s liveliness or banter. No man of taste ever made an offer after supper, and certainly nine-tenths of those who have done so have regretted it at breakfast the next morning.
“At public balls there are generally either three or four stewards on duty, or a professional master of ceremonies. These gentlemen having made all the arrangements, order the dances, and have power to change them if desirable. They also undertake to present young men to ladies, but it must be understood that such an introduction is only available for one dance. It is better taste to ask the steward to introduce you simply to a partner, than to point out any lady in particular. He will probably then ask you if you have a choice, and if not, you may be certain he will take you to an established wall-flower. Public balls are scarcely enjoyable unless you have your own party.
“As the great charm of a ball is its perfect accord and harmony, all altercations, loud talking, &c., are doubly ill-mannered in a ball room. Very little suffices to disturb the peace of the whole company.”
The same author gives some hints upon dancing which are so excellent that I need make no apology for quoting them. He says:—
“‘Thank you—aw—I do not dance,’ is now a very common reply from a well-dressed, handsome man, who is leaning against the side of the door, to the anxious, heated hostess, who feels it incumbent on her to find a partner for poor Miss Wallflower. I say the reply is not only common, but even regarded as rather a fine one to make. In short, men of the present day don’t, won’t, or can’t dance; and you can’t make them do it, except by threatening to give them no supper. I really cannot discover the reason for this aversion to an innocent amusement, for the apparent purpose of enjoying which they have spent an hour and a half on their toilet. There is something, indeed, in the heat of a ball room, there is a great deal in the ridiculous smallness of the closets into which the ball-giver crowds two hundred people, with a cruel indifference only equalled by that of the black-hole of Calcutta, expecting them to enjoy themselves, when the ladies’ dresses are crushed and torn, and the gentlemen, under the despotism of theirs, are melting away almost as rapidly as the ices with which an occasional waiter has the heartlessness to insult them. Then, again, it is a great nuisance to be introduced to a succession of plain, uninteresting young women, of whose tastes, modes of life, &c., you have not the slightest conception: who may look gay, yet have never a thought beyond the curate and the parish, or appear to be serious, while they understand nothing but the opera and So-and-so’s ball—in fact, to be in perpetual risk of either shocking their prejudices, or plaguing them with subjects in which they can have no possible interest; to take your chance whether they can dance at all, and to know that when you have lighted on a real charmer, perhaps the beauty of the room, she is only lent to you for that dance, and, when that is over, and you have salaamed away again, you and she must remain to one another as if you had never met; to feel, in short, that you must destroy either your present comfort or future happiness, is certainly sufficiently trying to keep a man close to the side-posts of the doorway. But these are reasons which might keep him altogether from a ball room, and, if he has these and other objections to dancing, he certainly cannot be justified in coming to a place set apart for that sole purpose.
“But I suspect that there are other reasons, and that, in most cases, the individual can dance and does
dance at times, but has now a vulgar desire to be distinguished from the rest of his sex present, and to appear indifferent to the pleasures of the evening. If this be his laudable desire, however he might, at least, be consistent, and continue to cling to his door-post, like St. Sebastian to his tree, and reply throughout the evening, ‘Thank you, I don’t take refreshments;’ ‘Thank you, I can’t eat supper;’ ‘Thank you, I don’t talk;’ ‘Thank you, I don’t drink champagne,’—for if a ball room be purgatory, what a demoniacal conflict does a supper-room present; if young ladies be bad for the heart, champagne is worse for the head.
“No, it is the will, not the power to dance which is wanting, and to refuse to do so, unless for a really good reason, is not the part of a well-bred man. To mar the pleasure of others is obviously bad manners, and, though at the door-post, you may not be in the way, you may be certain that there are some young ladies longing to dance, and expecting to be asked, and that the hostess is vexed and annoyed by seeing them fixed, like pictures, to the wall. It is therefore the duty of every man who has no scruples about dancing, and purposes to appear at balls, to learn how to dance.
“In the present day the art is much simplified, and if you can walk through a quadrille, and perform a polka, waltz, or galop, you may often dance a whole evening through. Of course, if you can add to these the Lancers, Schottische, and Polka-Mazurka, you will have more variety, and can be more generally agreeable. But if your master or mistress [a man learns better from the former] has stuffed into your head some of the three hundred dances which he tells you exist, the best thing you can do is to forget them again. Whether right or wrong, the number of usual dances is limited, and unusual ones should be very sparingly introduced into a ball, for as few people know them, their dancing, on the one hand, becomes a mere display, and, on the other, interrupts the enjoyment of the majority.
“The quadrille is pronounced to be essentially a conversational dance, but, inasmuch as the figures are perpetually calling you away from your partner, the first necessity for dancing a quadrille is to be supplied with a fund of small talk, in which you can go from subject to subject like a bee from flower to flower. The next point is to carry yourself uprightly. Time was when—as in the days of the minuet de la cour—the carriage constituted the dance. This is still the case with the quadrille, in which, even if ignorant of the figures, you may acquit yourself well by a calm, graceful carriage. After all, the most important figure is the smile, and the feet may be left to their fate, if we know what to do with our hands; of which I may observe that they should never be pocketed.
“The smile is essential. A dance is supposed to amuse, and nothing is more out of place in it than a gloomy scowl, unless it be an ill-tempered frown. The gaiety of a dance is more essential than the accuracy of its figures, and if you feel none yourself, you may, at least, look pleased by that of those around you. A defiant manner is equally obnoxious. An acquaintance of mine always gives me the impression, when he advances in l’été, that he is about to box the lady who comes to meet him. But the most objectionable of all is the supercilious manner. Dear me, if you really think you do your partner an honor in dancing with her, you should, at least, remember that your condescension is annulled by the manner in which you treat her.
“A lady—beautiful word!—is a delicate creature, one who should be reverenced and delicately treated. It is, therefore, unpardonable to rush about in a quadrille, to catch hold of a lady’s hand as if it were a door-handle, or to drag her furiously across the room, as if you were Bluebeard and she Fatima, with the mysterious closet opposite to you. This brusque violent style of dancing is, unfortunately, common, but immediately stamps a man. Though I would not have you wear a perpetual simper, you should certainly smile when you take a lady’s hand, and the old custom of bowing in doing so, is one that we may regret; for, does she not confer an honor on us by the action? To squeeze it, on the other hand, is a gross familiarity, for which you would deserve to be kicked out of the room.
“‘Steps,’ as the chasser of the quadrille is called, belong to a past age, and even ladies are now content to walk through a quadrille. It is, however, necessary to keep time with the music, the great object being the general harmony. To preserve this, it is also advisable, where the quadrille, as is now generally the case, is danced by two long lines of couples down the room, that in l’été, and other figures, in which a gentleman and lady advance alone to meet one another, none but gentlemen should advance from the one side, and, therefore, none but ladies from the other.
“Dancing masters find it convenient to introduce new figures, and the fashion of La Trénise and the Grande Ronde is repeatedly changing. It is wise to know the last mode, but not to insist on dancing it. A quadrille cannot go on evenly if any confusion arises from the ignorance, obstinacy, or inattention of any one of the dancers. It is therefore useful to know every way in which a figure may be danced, and to take your cue from the others. It is amusing, however, to find how even such a trifle as a choice of figures in a quadrille can help to mark caste, and give a handle for supercilious sneers. Jones, the other day, was protesting that the Browns were ‘vulgar.’ ‘Why so? they are well-bred.’ ‘Yes, so they are.’ ‘They are well-informed.’ ‘Certainly.’ ‘They are polite, speak good English, dress quietly and well, are graceful and even elegant.’ ‘I grant you all that.’ ‘Then what fault can you find with them?’ ‘My dear fellow, they are people who gallop round in the last figure of a quadrille,’ he replied, triumphantly. But to a certain extent Jones is right. Where a choice is given, the man of taste will always select for a quadrille (as it is a conversational dance) the quieter mode of performing a figure, and so the Browns, if perfect in other respects, at least were wanting in taste. There is one alteration lately introduced from France, which I sincerely trust, will be universally accepted. The farce of that degrading little performance called ‘setting’—where you dance before your partner somewhat like Man Friday before Robinson Crusoe, and then as if your feelings were overcome, seize her hands and whirl her round—has been finally abolished by a decree of Fashion, and thus more opportunity is given for conversation, and in a crowded room you have no occasion to crush yourself and partner between the couples on each side of you.
“I do not attempt to deny that the quadrille, as now walked, is ridiculous; the figures, which might be graceful, if performed in a lively manner, have entirely lost their spirit, and are become a burlesque of dancing; but, at the same time, it is a most valuable dance. Old and young, stout and thin, good dancers and bad, lazy and active, stupid and clever, married and single, can all join in it, and have not only an excuse and opportunity for tête-à-tête conversation, which is decidedly the easiest, but find encouragement in the music, and in some cases convenient breaks in the necessity of dancing. A person of few ideas has time to collect them while the partner is performing, and one of many can bring them out with double effect. Lastly, if you wish to be polite or friendly to an acquaintance who dances atrociously, you can select a quadrille for him or her, as the case may be.
“Very different in object and principle are the so-called round dances, and there are great limitations as to those who should join in them. Here the intention is to enjoy a peculiar physical movement under peculiar conditions, and the conversation during the intervals of rest is only a secondary object. These dances demand activity and lightness, and should therefore be, as a rule, confined to the young. An old man sacrifices all his dignity in a polka, and an old woman is ridiculous in a waltz. Corpulency, too, is generally a great impediment, though some stout people prove to be the lightest dancers.
“The morality of round dances scarcely comes within my province. They certainly can be made very indelicate; so can any dance, and the French cancan proves that the quadrille is no safer in this respect than the waltz. But it is a gross insult to our daughters and sisters to suppose them capable of any but the most innocent and purest enjoyment in the dance, while of our young men I will say, that to the pure all things are pure. Those who see harm in it, are those in whose mind evil thoughts must have arisen. Honi soit qui mal y pense. Those who rail against dancing are perhaps not aware that they do but follow in the steps of the Romish Church. In many parts of the Continent, bishops who have never danced in their lives, and perhaps never seen a dance, have laid a ban of excommunication on waltzing. A story was told to me in Normandy of the worthy Bishop of Bayeux, one of this number. A priest of his diocese petitioned him to put down round dances. ‘I know nothing about them,’ replied the prelate, ‘I have never seen a waltz.’ Upon this the younger ecclesiastic attempted to explain what it was and wherein the danger lay, but the bishop could not see it. ‘Will Monseigneur permit me to show him?’ asked the priest. ‘Certainly. My chaplain here appears to understand the subject; let me see you two waltz.’ How the reverend gentlemen came to know so much about it does not appear, but they certainly danced a polka, a gallop, and a trois-temps waltz. ‘All these seem harmless enough.’ ‘Oh! but Monseigneur has not seen the worst;’ and thereupon the two gentlemen proceeded to flounder through a valse à deux-temps. They must have murdered it terribly, for they were not half round the room when his Lordship cried out, ‘Enough, enough, that is atrocious, and deserves excommunication.’ Accordingly this waltz was forbid, while the other dances were allowed. I was at a public ball at Caen soon after this occurrence, and was amused to find the trois-temps danced with a peculiar shuffle, by way of compromise between conscience and pleasure.
“There are people in this country whose logic is as good as that of the Bishop of Bayeux, but I confess my inability to understand it. If there is impropriety in round dances, there is the same in all. But to the waltz, which poets have praised and preachers denounced. The French, with all their love of danger, waltz atrociously, the English but little better; the Germans and Russians alone understand it. I could rave through three pages about the innocent enjoyment of a good waltz, its grace and beauty, but I will be practical instead, and give you a few hints on the subject.
“The position is the most important point. The lady and gentleman before starting should stand exactly opposite to one another, quite upright, and not, as is so common, painfully close to one another. If the man’s hand be placed where it should be, at the centre of the lady’s waist, and not all round it, he will have as firm a hold and not be obliged to stoop, or bend to his right. The lady’s head should then be turned a little towards her left shoulder, and her partner’s somewhat less towards his right, in order to preserve the proper balance. Nothing can be more atrocious than to see a lady lay her head on her partner’s shoulder; but, on the other hand, she will not dance well, if she turns it in the opposite direction. The lady again should throw her head and shoulders a little back, and the man lean a very little forward.
“The position having been gained, the step is the next question. In Germany the rapidity of the waltz is very great, but it is rendered elegant by slackening the pace every now and then, and thus giving a crescendo and decrescendo time to the movement. The Russian men undertake to perform in waltzing the same feat as the Austrians in riding, and will dance round the room with a glass of champagne in the left hand without spilling a drop. This evenness in waltzing is certainly very graceful, but can only be attained by a long sliding step, which is little practised where the rooms are small, and people, not understanding the real pleasure of dancing well, insist on dancing all at the same time. In Germany they are so alive to the necessity of ample space, that in large balls a rope is drawn across the room; its two ends are held by the masters of the ceremonies pro-tem., and as one couple stops and retires, another is allowed to pass under the rope and take its place. But then in Germany they dance for the dancing’s sake. However this may be, an even motion is very desirable, and all the abominations which militate against it, such as hop-waltzes, the Schottische, and ridiculous Varsovienne, are justly put down in good society. The pace, again, should not be sufficiently rapid to endanger other couples. It is the gentleman’s duty to steer, and in crowded rooms nothing is more trying. He must keep his eyes open and turn them in every direction, if he would not risk a collision, and the chance of a fall, or what is as bad, the infliction of a wound on his partner’s arm. I have seen a lady’s arm cut open in such a collision by the bracelet of that of another lady; and the sight is by no means a pleasant one in a ball room, to say nothing of a new dress covered in a moment with blood.
“The consequences of violent dancing may be really serious. Not only do delicate girls bring on, thereby, a violent palpitation of the heart, and their partners appear in a most disagreeable condition of solution, but dangerous falls ensue from it. I have known instances of a lady’s head being laid open, and a gentleman’s foot being broken in such a fall, resulting, poor fellow! in lameness for life.
“It is, perhaps, useless to recommend flat-foot waltzing in this country, where ladies allow themselves to be almost hugged by their partners, and where men think it necessary to lift a lady almost off the ground, but I am persuaded that if it were introduced, the outcry against the impropriety of waltzing would soon cease. Nothing can be more delicate than the way in which a German holds his partner. It is impossible to dance on the flat foot unless the lady and gentleman are quite free of one another. His hand, therefore, goes no further round her waist than to the hooks and eyes of her dress, hers, no higher than to his elbow. Thus danced, the waltz is smooth, graceful, and delicate, and we could never in Germany complain of our daughter’s languishing on a young man’s shoulder. On the other hand, nothing is more graceless and absurd than to see a man waltzing on the tips of his toes, lifting his partner off the ground, or twirling round and round with her like the figures on a street organ. The test of waltzing in time is to be able to stamp the time with the left foot. A good flat-foot waltzer can dance on one foot as well as on two, but I would not advise him to try it in public, lest, like Mr. Rarey’s horse on three legs, he should come to the ground in a luckless moment. The legs should be very little bent in dancing, the body still less so. I do not know whether it be worse to see a man sit down in a waltz, or to find him with his head poked forward over your young wife’s shoulder, hot, red, wild, and in far too close proximity to the partner of your bosom, whom he makes literally the partner of his own.
“The ‘Lancers’ are a revival, after many long years, and, perhaps, we may soon have a drawing-room adaptation of the Morris-dance.
 “The only advice, therefore, which it is necessary to give to those who wish to dance the polka may be summed up in one word, ‘don’t.’ Not so with the galop. The remarks as to the position in waltzing apply to all round dances, and there is, therefore, little to add with regard to the galop, except that it is a great mistake to suppose it to be a rapid dance. It should be danced as slowly as possible. It will then be more graceful and less fatiguing. It is danced quite slowly in Germany and on the flat foot. The polka-mazurka is still much danced, and is certainly very graceful. The remarks on the quadrille apply equally to the lancers, which are great favorites, and threaten to take the place of the former. The schottische, hop-waltz, redowa, varsovienne, cellarius, and so forth, have had their day, and are no longer danced in good society.
“The calm ease which marks the man of good taste, makes even the swiftest dances graceful and agreeable. Vehemence may be excused at an election, but not in a ball room. I once asked a beautiful and very clever young lady how she, who seemed to pass her life with books, managed to dance so well. ‘I enjoy it,’ she replied; ‘and when I dance I give my whole mind to it.’ And she was quite right. Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well; and if it is not beneath your dignity to dance, it is not unworthy of your mind to give itself, for the time, wholly up to it. You will never enjoy dancing till you do it well; and, if you do not enjoy it, it is folly to dance. But, in reality, dancing, if it be a mere trifle, is one to which great minds have not been ashamed to stoop. Locke, for instance, has written on its utility, and speaks of it as manly, which was certainly not Michal’s opinion, when she looked out of the window and saw her lord and master dancing and playing. Plato recommended it, and Socrates learned the Athenian polka of the day when quite an old gentleman, and liked it very much. Some one has even gone the length of calling it ‘the logic of the body;’ and Addison defends himself for making it the subject of a disquisition.”

Post a Comment