The Dancing Academy
( Originally Published 1898 )
CONCERNING the architectural requirements of a private dancing-academy, there can be but one opinion, — that it should be built with every convenience necessary to the accommodation of pupils of all ages and both sexes ; with not less than two large, comfortable, and well-furnished dressing-rooms, each supplied with all the accessories to the toilet that might be required in emergencies.
Abundant ventilation, to be secured by large, well-shaded windows on four sides, and by a dome with air-valves and frosted or colored glass skylights in the centre, should be a prominent consideration in building.
If the hall should be on the-second story (which would be preferable), broad stairways with wide steps should lead in and out at both ends of the building ; and the seating-capacity of the hall, independently of the open floor, should be double that required for dancing, so that during the intervals between dances, not only spectators, but participants, might find comfortable resting-places. I have seen and danced in many of the largest halls North and South, and have never found in any of them this self-evident necessity supplied.
The formation of a floor for dancing should also be carefully considered. The foundation should be solid and firm, and perfectly level and smooth, with water-tight seams and joints. In areas for a private academy, sixty feet by eighty of clear space for dancing may be regarded as sufficient ; while the galleries and chair-ways should contain seats, each distinct from the other, and yet sufficiently near together to admit of conversation, in modulated tones, between those who sit next each other.
With reference to catacoustics, as applied to buildings of this character, I confess that I am not qualified to give a competent opinion, never having studied architecture except by observation and comparison. It may be safely asserted, however, that halls constructed with as few angles and as many curves as the model of the structure will furnish, will be found best adapted to the proper reflection of musical tones, for the reason that, in one particular respect, sound is like water : whenever it strikes an angle, its compactness is shaken ; it splits, trembles, becomes confused, and often takes for a, short tune a contrary and unnatural direction.
This will be at once apparent to any one who may have observed the difference in the roundness and sweetness of echoes coming across still waters, and those reverberating and bounding over rocky hills, or through uneven woodlands.
The theory is also illustrated in the tones of the human voice, which, when the vocal organs and channels are healthy and full, yet, to a certain extent, yielding and flexible, are clear and pure ; while, if they are inflamed or angularly contracted, the tones are uneven, irregular, harsh, and dissonant.
The stage or stand for musicians should be raised at least as high as the heads of the dancers, and placed halfway between the head and foot of the hall, so that the music may not be torn by mingling with the company, but float freely over all, equally distinct in all parts of the room.
The head of a dancing-room is usually opposite to the main entrance ; but, in my own experience, I have found it more convenient to designate the end opposite the musicians as head, in order to have the first or leading couples in square dances facing the music and the director of ceremonies.
Believing, as I do, that the dancing-academy is an " alma mater " to its specific purposes, and not, as some people regard it, a place where men, women, and children are taught only to hop and " cut capers," I consider its location and surroundings to be of paramount importance.
It should be situated apart from the business thoroughfares, away from the neighborhood of bar-rooms, beer-saloons, and other places of public resort ; and under no circumstances, except for the most select social and amateur entertainments, should it be devoted to other than its legitimate uses ; so that the patrons and pupils, especially ladies and children, might visit it at any hour, without fear of being rudely stared at, and perhaps approached by dissolute characters, or of having their delicacy shocked by vulgar language.
And here I cannot lose the opportunity to deprecate the custom of setting up bar-counters and beer-stands in the building on the occasion of balls or other social entertainments. The custom is prevalent with the Germans ; but with them it is both national and natural. By taste and temperament they are moderate and economical drinkers ; and the rule, as applied to them, is different in effect to that which should govern the habits of the nervous and impressionable American.
It is no compliment to a lady to take her to a ball, and then resort to beer, wine, or alcohol for that inspiration and pleasure which her society and conversation should afford.
Dancing At Home And Abroad:
The Dancing Academy
Music And Musicians
System In Teaching
Special Classes And Specialists
Balls And Soirees
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