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Dancing As Recreation

( Originally Published 1906 )

IN my list of false amusements I must give a prominent place to the dance.

All dancing, like all Gaul, is divided into three parts. One-third is a esthetic, one-third is physical exercise, one-third is sensual. As to the first, the enjoyment of fine music, of beautiful dresses, forms, and motions, they may all be had under better auspices than in the dance. A woodland ramble, a tennis tournament, an archery club, bicycle or horseback riding, the concert-room,—these furnish in God's own way tenfold more beauty to the eye and ear than is furnished by the finest ball ever given. As for the second third, the physical exercise, it is ill timed, ill placed, ill environed Hot air, gaslight, excitement, midnight, crowds, loaded supper tables, noise,—these make a poor outfit for a gymnasium.

Every honest investigator of the dance as now practised in America will agree that the third part into which this heathen Gaul is divided is the stronghold of the province. The sensuality of the dance makes bold-eyed women of soft-eyed maidens; it makes swaggering rakes of pure lads ; it changes love to flirtation and a game of flippant shrewdness; it makes applicable to manly America Tolstoi's terrific strictures on ignoble Russia. It never re-creates a Christian ; it discreates a Christian, and creates a sensualist.

Mr. Davidson, the evangelist, was once talking to a group of seminary girls about becoming Christians, and one objection they raised was that if they joined the church they would be obliged to give up dancing.

" No," he replied, " no one would object to you girls dancing together."

" 0, but there 's no fun in that ! " honestly exclaimed one girl, without stopping to think.

The answer disclosed, in a way that girl was probably far from realizing, the tremendous peril of the dance. Men understand it well enough. They know how slight would be the attraction of the dance if conducted as in the wise old days of Greece, long lines of maidens alone, facing long lines of lads alone, out of doors in God's daylight. They know well enough that it is as easy to square the circle as to convert young people, that have begun to waltz, from the round dance to the square dance. And they understand perfectly in what ways and for what reasons the round dance is the round mouth of the pit.

It is not pleasant to dwell on this theme, nor is it likely to be profitable. A word—to the wise—is sufficient, while upon the unwise a Niagara of words would have no effect. If one is really bent upon being a pure-minded, pure-lived man or woman, a hint is enough to point out the danger, and clear eyes and unvitiated brain will speedily clinch the hint. If one has already become habituated to the ball-room, however, he has learned to estimate ability not by the head but by the foot, and he carries his conscience not in his breast but in his toes, where he dances upon it till he has pounded it to death.

While it is true that no girl would permit herself to be photographed in the act of waltzing with a young man, let her not allow such a photograph to find place in the gallery of the recording angel. Until a young man can find a dancer that will gladly walk as far to church as he will dance any night in a ballroom, let him, as he values his manhood and all his eternal interests, leave the ballroom and the dance peremptorily alone.

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