Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Good breeding and good temper are inseparably connected

Our current dance etiquette (listed on ball invitations) is as follows:

  • The gentleman should ask the lady to dance.
  • A lady who is seated indicates that she does not wish to dance
  • A lady need not give a reason for declining to dance with a gentleman, but she should not accept another gentleman on the same dance.
  • After a dance, the gentleman will lead his partner from the dance floor, and both will thank the other for the dance.
  • Dancing with another person is a privilege, and at our balls it is not an indication of personal affection-- rather, we are honoring God together and rejoicing in His gifts of dance and fellowship.
However, reading old books of etiquette is fun. These excerpts are from the book, Ballroom Dancing Without a Master, 1872.

"Even in private balls, no gentleman can invite a lady to dance without a previous introduction." Hm. This would save you the embarrassment of trying to get a guy to tell you his name without having to actually say, "what's your name?"

"No gentleman should accept an invitation to a ball if he does not dance. When ladies are present who would be pleased to receive an invitation, those gentlemen who hold themselves aloof are guilty, not only of a negative, but a positive act of neglect." Reasonable enough.

"To attempt to dance without knowledge of dancing is not only to make one's self ridiculous, but one's partner also. No lady or gentleman has the right to place a partner in this absurd position." Since most people at our dances don't know how to dance I would amend this. "To attempt to dance without attentiveness to instruction is not only to make one's self ridiculous, etc."

"It is not necessary that a lady or gentleman should be acquainted with the steps, in order to walk gracefully through a quadrille. An easy carriage and a knowledge of the figure is all that is requisite." [emphasis in original] We don't even require that!

"No person who has not a good ear for time and tune need hope to dance well." Ouch.

"Good taste forbids that a lady and a gentleman should dance too frequently together at either a public or private ball. Engaged persons should be careful not to commit this solecism." Wow, okay.

"Young gentlemen are earnestly advised not to limit their conversation to the weather and the heat of the room. It is, to a certain extent, incumbent on them to do something more than dance when they invite a lady to join a quadrille. If it only be the news of the day, a gentleman should be able to offer at least three or four observations to his partner in the course of a long half-hour." So conversation is a gentleman's responsibility? Interesting. Of course, if you are dancing together for half an hour then conversation is a necessity not a nicety.

"Gentlemen who dance cannot be too careful not to injure the dresses of the ladies who do them the honor to stand up with them. The young men of the present day are singularly careless in this respect; and when they have torn a lady's delicate skirt, appear to think the mischief they have done scarcely worth the trouble of an apology." I've never had trouble with this one. The young men at our dances are apparently better in this respect. I have had a dress stepped on, but they always apologize profusely.

The etiquette books I read are mostly found here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The SincereIntellectual

This is our simplified version of the traditional dance, the Physical Snob. The Physical Snob is really a little more interesting but can tend to be too fast moving (unless you get really slow music) for most beginning dancers.

Women join hands and the first woman leads the women round the men. (16 counts)

17- 32: Men join hands and the first man leads the men round the women. (16 counts)

B1 Poussette:
First couple joins both hands, the second couple does likewise and, with the first man walking forward right and backwards (the second man doing the opposite with his partner), the first and second couples change places (So that the second couple is at the top with the first couple in the middle) (8 counts)

This time first and third couples hold their partners' hands and, with the first man going back, the first and third couples change places (Third couple is in the middle with first couple on the bottom) (8 counts)

49-64: The first couple leads up the middle to the top and cast to the bottom of the set. (16 counts)

The dance is danced again with the second couple as the head couple.

The terms used in this dance can be found in the post on dance terms.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Couple of Links

Dance music is hard to get right. Before our balls my sister and I have a lot of work to do. The music needs to be the right speed for each dance, provide a solid beat, give the right mood, and let the dancers get through the dance several times. Here's a few useful doo-dads.

I usually splice and loop the songs using GoldWave Editor. Sometimes I get carried away and make them too long, and sometimes I go crazy listening to the same phrase over and over again, trying to cut it in the right spot.

Beats-per-minute counter This thing could be real useful if you want to tack metronome beats on to the beginning of a song (if it doesn't have an introduction) or just to give you an idea of speed.

A definite recommendation of this CD. The songs are at nice dancing speeds and the beat is always laid down nicely. Some of the songs are a bit short, but that's what I use GoldWave for.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Cavalier

According to a 19th century dance manual, a gentleman ought not play cavalier to two ladies. Don't worry, the guys don't ask two girls to dance, but a lot of the figures involve one gentleman and his partner and friend.

Oh, and the swings go by fast. Just enough time to get around once. This'll keep you on your toes.

A duple minor improper contra

1-8: 1st gent (and two ladies) perform a Dunstable Round.
9-16: Second gentleman (and both ladies) circle perform a Dunstable Round

17-24: Right allemande your partner (it will be appropriate to keep your arms closer to your side, rather than at eye level as is often practiced in the Virginia Reel)
25-32: Left allemande your partner

33-36: 1st gentleman swing friend once around
37-40: 1st gentleman swing partner once
41-44: 2nd gentleman swing friend
45-48: 2nd gentleman swing partner

49-56: 1st gentleman (and both ladies) in a Cavalier's Promenade
57-60: 2nd gentleman (and both ladies) in a Cavalier's Promenade
61-64: 2s arch and 1s join hands and go under.

Terms for the dance

Dunstable Round-- circle--8 counts-- A circle with 3 people, one gentleman and both ladies in a duple minor set. To the left unless otherwise specified.

Allemande-- a turn--8 counts-- In traditional contra dancing, a right allemande would be performed by two people joining right hands and walking around each other in eight counts (a left allemande would be to join left hands, obviously). If the allemande is a move performed by a lady and a gent, a shake-hand hold may be used.

Swing-- A turn-- 4 counts (often twice in 8 counts)-- Two dancers stand side by side facing in opposite directions, they then hold each other while moving forwards; the result is that they move together in a tight circle. Stand beside your partner right shoulder to right shoulder, take half a step back, and then put your right feet in so the feet are adjacent. To swing you simply walk round keeping each foot on its circle, taking your weight on the inner foot, and using the outer foot to push you round like working a scooter. Remember to pick the inside foot up to move it round the circle. The standard hold is a Ballroom hold: the man puts his right hand in the middle of her back (and this arm does all the work; she rests her left hand on his right shoulder, and they hold the other hands loosely out to the side.

Cavelier's Promenade--Floor movement--8 counts-- One gent joins his right hand to his partner's left, and his left to his friend's right. They go down the set for four counts, facing the other gent in the set and walk back up for four counts in the same manner.

Arch-- partner/friend move-- 4 counts-- Simply join hands with your partner or friend to form an arch that other couples can pass under.

All terms used should be found here.