Saturday, September 8, 2012

When the Guest Does Not Dance

Always at a dance, formal or informal, there are guests who do not dance. Usually they are men, for there is rarely a woman who does not know the steps of the latest dances—that is, if she ever does accept invitations at all. But "the guest who does not dance" is one of the unfortunate things the hostess has to put up with at every one of her dances.

And there is rarely ever an excuse for it. Every man who mingles in society at all, who enjoys the company of brilliant women and attractive young ladies, who accepts the invitations of hostesses, is failing in his duty when he offers as an excuse the fact that he doesn't know how to dance—for there are sufficient schools of dancing in every city and town where the latest steps can be learned quickly.

If for any reason, a gentleman does not know how to dance, and does not want to learn, he may make up for it by entertaining the chaperons while their charges are dancing,—conversing with them, walking about with them and escorting them to the refreshment table, and altogether show by his kind attentiveness that he realizes his deficiency and wishes to make up for it. To lounge in the dressing-room, smoking and chatting with other gentlemen is both unfair to the hostess and essentially rude in the matter of ballroom etiquette. The true gentleman would rather decline an invitation than be unfair to his hostess and her guests in this respect.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Quadrille

The quadrille is the most universal, as it is most certainly the most sociable of all fashionable dances. It admits of pleasant conversation, frequent interchange of partners, and is adapted to every age. The young or old, the ponderous pater familias, or his sylph-like daughter, may with equal propriety take part in its easy and elegant figures. Even an occasional blunder is of less consequence in this dance than in many others; for each personage is in some degree free as to his own movements, not being compelled by the continual embrace of his partner to dance either better or worse than he may find convenient.

People now generally walk through a quadrille. Nothing more than a perfect knowledge of the figure, a graceful demeanor, and a correct ear for the time of the music are requisite to enable any one to take a creditable part in this dance. Steps are quite gone out of fashion: even the chasse has been given up for some time past.

A quadrille must always consist of five parts. If a variation be made in the fourth figure, by the substitution of Pastorale for Trenise, the latter must then be omitted; or vice versa. As soon as a gentleman has engaged his partner for the quadrille, he should endeavor to secure as his vis-à-vis some friend or acquaintance; and should then lead his partner to the top of the quadrille, provided that post of honor be still vacant. He will place the lady always at his right hand.

Quadrille music is divided into eight bars for each part of the figure; two steps should be taken in every bar; every movement thus invariably consists of eight or of four steps.

It is well not to learn too many new figures: the memory is liable to become confused amongst them; besides which, it is doubtful whether your partner, or your vis-à-vis, is as learned in the matter as yourself. Masters are extremely fond of inventing and teaching new figures; but you will do well to confine your attention to a few simple and universally received sets, which you will find quite sufficient for your purpose. We begin with the oldest and most common, the


The set is composed of eight persons—four ladies and four gentlemen. Two couples to form the top and bottom, and two to form the sides. The gentlemen place themselves on the left of their partners.

Before commencing a description of the Quadrilles or square dances, in order to save a repetition of terms, I would wish the readers of this book to bear in mind the following instructions:

In all cases where you have to cross the opposite side, turn your partner, or make use of the ladies' chain, use seven walking steps, and bring the left foot up behind for the eighth.

When you have to advance and retire, or set to your partner, use three walking steps forward, and bring the left foot up behind, and retire by walking back, first with the left then with the right—with the left again, and bring your right foot up to the left to finish.

First Figure—La Pantalon.—The first part of this figure is called half right and left, because you pass on the right hand side of the first person you meet in crossing, and the left hand side of your own partner; when you get across, repeat the same to your place, turn facing your partner. Set—taking care to pass on the right hand side of each other, give the right hand and turn.

Ladies' Chain.—The ladies cross, giving their right hands to each other, and the left to the opposite gentleman—the same back to place. The gentlemen move round behind their partners, giving the opposite lady their left hand, and the same movement is repeated to meet their partners. Keep the hands—cross over to opposite side—then half right and left to finish. The side couples repeat this figure.

Second Figure—L'Eté.—Top lady and opposite gentleman advance and retire, then cross over, in a semi-circle; repeat these two movements to get to your places. Set to partners and turn. The side couples repeat the figure.

Third Figure—La Poule.—The top lady and opposite gentleman cross over, lightly touching the right hand as they pass, return again, this time retain the left hand, all four form a chain, make one small step forward, and one back, do this twice, then cross over to the opposite couples' place, the couple who are dancing the figure advance and retire twice, give the nearest hand to your partner, all four advance and retire, then half right and left, the same as in the first figure, to finish.

Fourth Figure—La Pastorale.—Top lady and her partner advance and retire, the lady now crosses, the gentleman leaving her half way, retires alone; the opposite gentleman now advances with the two ladies, taking their outside hands. The two ladies now cross to the other gentleman. The gentleman who leads them retires alone. The three advance and retire from the other side, then all three cross over, give hands round, cross over to opposite sides. Half right and left to finish. The side couples repeat the figure.

Trenise.—The top lady and her partner advance and retire, they then advance again, the gentleman leaving the lady opposite him. The two ladies cross to the opposite side. The top gentleman advances to meet his partner, the bottom lady returns to her place; set to partners and turn.

Finale.—All join hands round, advance and retire twice. The top and bottom couples advance and retire, then cross over. Repeat the same again. Ladies chain, and hands round. In crossing do not alter the side on which you stand, but go straight across.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dancing Positions

Dancing has been revolutionized since the day when the German waltz was first introduced to polite society. And it is safe to say that some of our austere granddames would feel righteously indignant if they were suddenly brought back to the ballroom and forced to witness some of the modern dance innovations!

There seems to be an attempt, on the part of the younger generation (although the older generation is not so very far behind!) to achieve absolute freedom of movement, to go through the dance with a certain unrestrained impulsiveness unknown to the minuet or graceful quadrille. These newer dances and dancing interpretations are charming and entertaining; and yet there is the possibility of their becoming vulgar if proper dancing positions are not taken. The position is especially important in the latest dances.

In guiding a lady across the polished floor to the tune of a simple waltz or a gay fox-trot, the gentleman encircles her waist half way with his right arm, laying the palm of his hand lightly just above the waist line. With his left hand, he holds her right at arm's length in the position most comfortable for both of them, taking special care not to hold it in an awkward or ungainly position. His face is always turned slightly to the left, while hers usually faces front or slightly to the right. The girl should place her left arm on her partner's right arm. She must follow him and not try to lead the dance herself.

When the dance requires certain swaying movements, as almost all modern dances do, the lady inclines her body in harmony with that of her partner, and if the proper care is taken to retain one's poise and dignity, not even a most exacting chaperon can find fault with the new steps.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Charm of Dress in Dancing

Immediately after the Reign of Terror, France was plunged into a reckless round of unrestrained gaiety that can come only from love of life and youth and laughter long pent-up. It was as though an avalanche of joy had been released; it was in reality the reaction from the terrors and nightmares of those two years of horror. The people were free, free to do as they pleased without the fear of the guillotine ever present; and all France went mad with rejoicing.

It was then that dancing came into its own. Almost overnight huge dance halls sprang up. The homes of wealthy aristocrats who had been sacrificed to the monster guillotine, were converted into places for dancing. Every available inch of space was utilized for the dance. And the more these freed people danced, the more their spirits soared with the joy of life and living, until they found in the dance itself the interpretation of freedom and all that it means.

A biographer who was an eye-witness of this madcap Paris, wrote in detail about the dance and the dress of these people. He told how they dressed in the brightest clothes they could obtain, for maddened with happiness as they were, they instinctively felt that bright clothes would enliven their spirits. And they did!

"The room was a mass of swirling, twirling figures," the biographer writes, "men, women and children in weird, vivid clothes. It seemed natural that they should be dancing so wildly in their wild costumes; in their sabots and aprons of two months ago they would not have been able to take one step."

It is, then, the spirit of clothes that imparts to one the spirit of the dance. We have mentioned these facts about the Reign of Terror to show what effect clothes do have on the spirit, and incidentally to show what the ballroom owes to dress. For it is undoubtedly the gaily-colored dance frock of the miss of the twentieth century, and the strikingly immaculate dance suit of her partner that gives to the ballroom to-day much of its splendid brilliance.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What Makes A Young Girl A Ballroom Success

Adapted from Miss Emily Post

A pessimistic one might suppose that a ballroom is always a chamber of torture and the young girl taken as an example above, a very drab and distorted caricature of what "a real young girl" should be and is. But remember, the young girl who is a "belle of the ballroom" needs no advice on how to manage a happy situation; no thought spent on how to make a perfect time better. The ballroom is the most wonderful stage-setting there is for the girl who is a ballroom success. And for this, especial talents are needed just as they are for art or sport or any other accomplishment.

The great ballroom success, first and foremost, dances well. Almost always she is pretty. Beauty counts enormously at a ball. The girl who is beautiful and dances well is, of course, the ideal ballroom belle. But—this for encouragement—these qualities can in a measure at least be acquired. All things being more or less equal, the girl who dances best has the most partners. Let a daughter of Venus or the heiress of Midas dance badly, and she might better stay at home.

To dance divinely is an immortal gift, but to dance well can (except in obstinate cases, as the advertisements say) be taught. Let us suppose therefore, that she dances well, that she has a certain degree of looks, that she is fairly intelligent. The next most important thing, after dancing well, is to be unafraid, and to look as though she were having a good time. Conversational cleverness is of no account in a ballroom; some of the greatest belles ever known have been as stupid as sheep, but they have had happy dispositions and charming and un-self-conscious manners. There is one thing every girl who would really be popular should learn, in fact, she must learn—self-unconsciousness! The best advice might be to follow somewhat the precepts of mental science and make herself believe that a good time exists in her own mind. If she can become possessed with the idea that she is having a good time and look as though she were, the psychological effect is astonishing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Polka

In the polka there an but two principal steps, all others belong to fancy dances, and much mischief and inconvenience is likely to arise from their improper introduction into the ball-room.

First step. The gentleman raises the left foot slightly behind the right, the right foot is then hopped with, and the left brought forward with a glissade. The lady commences with the right, jumps on the left, and glissades with the right. The gentleman during his step has hold of the lady's left hand with his right.

Second step. The gentleman lightly hops the left foot forward on the heel, then hops on the toe, bringing the left foot slightly behind the right. He then glissades with the left foot forward; the same is then done, commencing with the right foot. The lady dances the same step, only beginning with the right foot.

There are a variety of other steps of a fancy character, but they can only be understood with the aid of a master, and even when well studied, must be introduced with care. The polka should be danced with grace and elegance, eschewing all outré and ungainly steps and gestures, taking care that the leg is not lifted too high, and that the dance is not commenced in too abrupt a manner. Any number of couples may stand up, and it is the privilege of the gentleman to form what figure he pleases, and vary it as often as his fancy and taste may dictate.

First Figure. Four or eight bars are devoted to setting forwards and backwards, turning from and towards your partner, making a slight hop at the commencement of each set, and holding your partner's left hand; you then perform the same step (forwards) all round the room.

Second Figure. The gentleman faces his partner, and does the same step backwards all round the room, the lady following with the opposite foot, and doing the step forwards.

Third Figure. The same as the second figure, only reversed, the lady stepping backwards, and the gentleman forwards, always going the same way round the room.
Fourth Figure. The same step as figures two and three, but turning as in a waltz.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Women's Accessories for a Ball

The woman wears her most elaborate evening wrap to the ball. Soft materials in light shades are suggested, with trimmings of fur for the winter months. A wrap of old blue or old rose velvet with a collar of white fog is becoming and attractive when it is within one's means. But the simple wrap of cloth, untrimmed, is certainly better taste for the woman whose means are limited. However, discrimination should be shown in the selection of lines and colors. A simple wrap, well-cut, and of fine material in a becoming shade, is as appropriate and effective as a wrap completely of fur. For the woman who must dress economically a dark loose coat of black satin is serviceable for many occasions.

Hats are never worn to the ball. A shawl or scarf of fine lace may be thrown over the hair and shoulders. Or a smaller shawl may be tied merely around the head. Satin pumps are worn, usually with buckle trimmings; and long gloves of white silk or kid, or in a color to match the gown, complete the outfit.