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The Dance

The Quadrille

The quadrille, 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 nienuet de la cow 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 into 1, 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 the 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. To be graceful, however, a lady should hold her skirt out a little. In France this is done with one hand, which I am inclined to think is more graceful than holding it with both. 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, danced by two long lines of couples down the room, that in Fete, and other figures, in which a gentleman and advance alone to meet one another, none but gentlemen should advance from the one side, and therefore none of ladies from the other.

The Value of Quadrilles

Dancing masters find it convenient to introduce fibres, and the fashion of La Trnise and the Grande Ronde is repeatedly changing. It is wise to know 1 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 fi 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 over come, 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, ve, stupd and clever, married and single, can all join in it, and have not only an excuse and opportunity for ***** conversation, which is decidedly the easiest but find encouragement in the music, and in some case convenient breaks in the necessity of dance person of few ideas has time to collect them whifeW[?] part-" nerjs[?] performing, and one of many can brin tlim out with double effect. Lastly, if yOU wish to be polite or lend yto an acquaintance who dances atrociously you can select a quadrille for him or her, as the ease may [fc Intense patnot.m]? still induces some people to affirm that Preferabk to ! [lr-ta on from France] These good creatures should inquire a litle further. I think they would find that the country! dance (contre-da, came from the somewhat earlier date. But, however this may be, dance which tears me so completely away from the part 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, physical movement under peculiar condition? and the conversion during the intervals of rest is only a secondary object. These dances demand activity and lightness, and should therefore be, as a rule, confined the young. An old man sacrifices all his dignitv in polka, and an old woman is ridiculous in a wata Corpulency too, is generally a great impediment. though some stout people prove to be the lightest dancers of round dances scarcely comes within my province.

The Waltz

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 even seen a dance, have laid a ban of excommunication on waltzing. A story was me told 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 even 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 gentleman came to know so much about it does not appear, but they certainly danced a polka, a gallop, and a troistemps waltz. All these seem harmless enough." "Oh ! but Monseigneur has not seen the worst;" and thereupon the two gentlemen proceeded to flounder through a raise a deux-tcmps. 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 forbidden, 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 dancing, 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 in England, 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 band to his right. The lady's head should then be turned a little towards her left shoulder, and her partner's somewhat 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 in England, 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 protern, 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 Varso-vienne, 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 on 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 maybe 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.

If a lady waltz with you, beware not to press her waist; you must only lightly touch it with the palm of your hand, lest you leave a disagreeable impression not only on her ceinture (a belt or sash for the waist), but on her mind.

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. Nay even death hovers among the giddy waltzers, and Victor Hugo has written a beautiful little poem on who have died of dancing, of which one verse as a moral:
Quels tristes lendemains laisse le bal folatre
Adieu, parure, danse et rires enfantins!
Aux chansons succedait le toux opiniatre,
Au plaisir rose et frais la fievre au teint bleuatre,
Aux yeux brillants les yeux eteints."

Be careful of the waltz, be sparing, lest it prove, in this land of consumption, to too many the true dance of death. Let us not mingle cypress with our roses.

Flat-Footed Waltzing

It is perhaps useless to recommend flat-foot waltz 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 impropriety of waltzing would soon cease. Nothing can be more delicate than the way in which a German hold his partner. It is impossible to dance on the flat 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. 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 Polka, Galop, Etc.

King Polka has been deposed after a reign of nearly twenty years. I cannot refrain from throwing up my cap. True, his rule was easy, and he was popular on that account, indeed, he has still his partisans in certain classes, but not in the best. For what a graceless, sleepy old creature he was! Then, too, he was not even a legitimate sovereign. The good family of the Polkas in Hungary, Poland, ... would not recognize this pretender of England and France, who is no more like them than that other pretender Mazurka, is like the original spirited, national fling of the same name. It is curious to see how our D'Egvilles have ransacked Europe for national dances to be adapted to the drawing-room, and, indeed, there spoiled. The waltz is of German origin, but where it is still danced in Germany in the original manner (as for instance, among the peasants of the Tyrol), it is a very different dance. It is there very slow and graceful- the feet are thrown out in a single long step, which Turveydrop, I presume, would call a jeti. a few turns, the partners waltz alone in the same... the man keeping the time by striking together his irorshod heels, until with a shout and clapping of hands again clasps his partner and continues in the same slow measure with her. The very names of the dances bespeak their origin. The Sclavonic nations must have giver the Polka, Mazurka, Redowa, Gorlitza ; and Elete whatever that may be. The Varsovienne and Cracovie are all that remain of Polish nationality.

The only advice therefore which it is necessary to give to those who wish to dance the polka may be summed up in two words, "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 only dance I regret is the German cotillon, which was introduced a few years ago, but not approved. English people made a romp of it, and English young ladies, an opportunity for marked flirtation; besides which English chaperons, not so patient as the same class on the Continent, would not sit through it. Well I remember the long hours through which we used to keep it up in Germany, while mammas and aunts were dozing behind their fans, and how vexed we were when its varied figures, invented often on the spot, came to an end, and carriages were called for.

The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentleman. James Hogg, 1859 [As written]