Dancing is a natural
form of expression, like singing, painting, talking and writing. For
modern, civilized man it has become mostly a form of amusement, a
pastime or an art; but, one thing is certain...it makes a statement!
The famous Lord
Chesterfield said, in a letter to his son, “Do you mind your dancing
when your dancing master is with you? As you will often be under
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 the putting on of your hat genteelly,
are the material parts of a gentleman’s dancing. But the greatest
advantage of dancing well is, the necessity that it teaches you
to present yourself, to sit, stand and walk genteelly; all of which
are of real importance to a man of fashion.”
Dancing came into
fashion in the ballroom in the fifteenth century, when Italy saw its
renaissance. The dances of other countries were taken to France, where
they were studied and perfected. Then, it was between the fifteenth an
eighteenth centuries that such dances arose as the Danse Basse, a
dance of the court of Charles IX, the steps of which were very grave,
dignified and solemn, and the accompaniment a psalm tune; and the
Pavane, the most famous and stately dance of the period. Spanish in
origin, it was really more a procession than a dance.
The Saraband was very
popular until its final demise after the
seventeenth century. The Courante, a court dance performed on tiptoe
with small jumping steps and many bows and curtseys, was considered by
many to be a great part of social education. And another, The Gavotte,
originally a peasant’s dance, became stiff and artificial after its
introduction at court.
The Minuet was the
dance brought to its greatest perfection by the French. It was
symbolic of the graces and outward refinements, which we do not now
possess, and its importance in the cultured world is indicated by the
fact that parts of the minuet have become incorporated into the
structure of the “symphony”.
Other dances introduced
in France during the period, and whose names are still familiar, are
the Cotillion in 1820, which was popular under Charles X; the Polka,
originated by a dancing master in Prague in 1840; the Schottische, a
Bohemian dance first introduced in 1844; the Quadrille, known in the
eighteenth century as the Contredanse; and the Waltz, danced as La
Volta by Henry III of France. It was not until the nineteenth century
that the Waltz reached the peak of its popularity. As it is danced
today, its origins lie in Germany, but it may be equally stated that
its origin is French.
of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century forms, modern dancing
was in a decadent state until 1912. In that year, a new era of popular
ballroom dancing began. The industrialized society of the twentieth
century finally broke away from those courtly steps expressing the
emotions and social attitudes of another civilization. This new era
found different steps to fit another cultural situation, and America
led the way in this rebirth of the dance.
Until the turn of the
century, dancing in the United States was nothing more than the
mimicking of standardized and well-known European steps. Yankee
dancing masters of the nineteenth century still taught the Polka,
Schottische, Viennese Waltz and Cotillion.
From 1912 to 1915 new
dances sprang up and disappeared in rapid succession. Those included
Ragtime, Jazz, the Turkey Trot, Bunny Hug, Grizzly Bear, Castle Walk
and the Tango. The Maxixe, imported from Brazil, and the Hesitation,
performed to waltz music, were very popular in the ballroom as well as
in musical comedy choruses.
In l925, Arthur Murray,
a protege’ of Vernon Castle, simplified modern dancing by
introducing five fundamental steps. After the introduction of the Fox
Trot, there followed the Rhumba, Conga, Shag, Charleston, Black
Bottom, Big Apple, and Lindy Hop. The Lambeth Walk, originally an old
English folk step, was imported to America by Mr. Murray in l938.
Since then, we have danced the Samba, which originated in Brazil, and
the Mambo. Ideally, this serge led the way to the modern ballroom
Is ballroom dancing
something you would like to accomplish? Well then, learn it! Later,
you may wish to present a ball of your own or attend a ball.
Here are some helpful rules to follow:
sure you can afford to give a ball in good style, or you had better
not attempt it at all.
you’ve decided you can do justice to the occasion and set a time,
decide whom and how many to invite.
due regard to the size of the rooms.
allowance for those who may decline to attend and then be sure those
whom you feel will attend will have adequate sitting, standing and
having many guests is brilliant; but fewer guests is more enjoyable.
a hundred constitutes a “large ball” under fifty is merely a
Since dancing is the amusement of he evening, pay due regard to the
dancing qualifications of the guests.
Invitations should be sent out at least 7 to 10 days before the ball;
and replies for attendance should be sent back within one week of
their receipt. Giving attention to these courtesies will give guests
time to make decisions as to accepting and dress, and the host/hostess
will know the number of the party for preparations.
sending an invitation to someone who has difficulty or opposition to
Invitations to teas differ from that of balls in that one specifies an
invitation to tea; whereas for the ball, one requests the pleasure of
attending a ball, one should dress not conspicuously, but in good
taste with regard to one’s own size, figure and look rather than the
current dress trends.
If it is to be a simple evening party, the invitations could be verbal
with notice to more casual dress; likewise, if in reality it will be a
ball, then written invitations are appropriate. (This eliminates
embarrassment of unsuitable dress).
cloakroom with attendants is indispensable.
at the ball may vary; married ladies accompanied by their husbands,
and unmarried ones by their mother or an escort is appropriate.
A lady should not refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance,
unless she has already accepted that of another. But, if she must, she
should give him a good reason why not. No gentlemen should have to
compromise his self-respect by seeing the lady dance with another.
a lady to dance by saying, “Will you honor me with your hand for a
quadrille”? Or, “Shall I have the honor of dancing this set with
you”? Also, “Shall I have the pleasure”? and “Will you give me
the pleasure of dancing with you”?
or young ladies cannot leave a ballroom or any other party alone; the
former should be accompanied by one or two other married ladies and
the latter by her mother or someone to represent her.
should avoid too much chatter or whispering.
master of the ball should see that all the ladies dance, especially
“wallflowers”, but this should be done with care not to cause
should accede to his wish and appear pleased to dance.
Ladies who dance much should not boast to those who dance little; and
one may recommend carefully that a gentleman dance with one who dances
dancing, ladies should wear a smile and exhibit a slight inclination
of the head. At the end of the dance the gentleman returns the lady to
her place and each may bow slightly in acknowledgement.
should show politeness to all, dancing with modesty and avoid
a ball or private party, it is improper for a lady to show more
preference for one gentleman than another...as regards dancing.
leaving the ballroom it is improper to disturb the hosts...rather
sometime later, visit them or send a note of compliment on the success
of the ball and enjoyable time one has had.
lady will not cross a ballroom unattended.
gentleman will not take a vacant seat next to a lady with whom he is
not acquainted; however, if he knows her he may ask permission to sit.
gloves should be worn and only taken off at suppertime.
dancing quadrilles do not attempt to take steps; also, do not dance
unless one is familiar with the dance.
a gent escorts a lady home after the ball, she should not invite him
inside; and he should decline an invitation if she extends one.
Rather, he should call the next day or evening.
guests enter the ballroom, it is not necessary for the host to advance
to the door each time.
entering a ballroom or party the visitor should graciously bow to the
mere dance with a lady does not give the gent a claim to her
afterwards.... for another.
wait for the signal to hastily take a dance partner.... it is
conclusion: Dancing can be one of life’s pleasures, and politeness
and good manners around and about the dance floor are many times a
matter of education and good common sense. So, ladies and gentlemen,
enjoy dancing! And, as Lord Chesterfield put it, “...one
should do it very well”!