The German, Or Cotillon
( Originally Published 1898 )
Of this dance the same may be said that Professor Dodworth has said of the glide, — that it is a growth rather than an invention. Undoubtedly it had its origin in Germany, where it grew through many years from a harvest-dance among the peasantry (and composed of a few simple evolutions) , to its present proportions of more than a hundred figures and changes. From Germany the German was carried to Paris, -where it was prnned and polished, and from whence it found its way into all the capitals of Europe. It became particularly popular and prominent in our own society, just about the time of the Franco-Prussian war, when—with an avidity only equalled by the volatile Frenchman himself, who shouts (with a tear in one eye and a smile in the other), " Le roi est mort, vive le roi i " — our leaders of " ton " threw off the imperial yoke of Eugenie at Paris, and bowed their heads in, fashion-worship at the shrines of " der Kaiser Wilhelm and seine Frau," at Berlin.
In the following selection of figures I have chosen those only that I consider appropriate for ballrooms and large private parties ; and they are few in comparison with the whole number of figures in the dance, some of which are adaptable only to the performance of a limited company of intimate acqnaintances, where merriment and even a little choice humor would rather advance than check the general enjoyment.
The success of a " German " (presuming that all who place themselves in the cotillon are familiar with the steps of the round dances, such as " glide," " polka," and polka redowa," or modified " mazurka") depends on the capability of the " conductor," and the cheerfulness and alacrity with which the dancers obey his signals and follow his directions.
The qualifications necessary for the " conductor " to succeed in his management are not so numerous as they are peculiar. After a knowledge and retentive memory of such figures as he proposes to direct, tact in controlling the evolutions of the cotillon, and in accommodating himself to the dispositions and degrees of efficiency in his dancers, will alone enable him to acquit himself with credit and satisfaction. Occasionally, with the exercise of good taste and ingenuity, he may invent figures during the progress of the dance ; but should always, before making the attempt, feel assured that his invention will be pleasing as well as surprising, and artistic as well as new.
The German among the ultra fashionable people of our larger cities at one pine exercised an objectionable influence on young people, from the extravagance of rivalry in the costliness of the " favors " presented during the performance of certain figures. Diamond rings and studs ; fans of ivory and ostrich plumes, inlaid with gold and set with jewels ; lace handkerchiefs, opera-chains, toilet-slippers, smoking-caps, and an infinity of other costly trifles, — were offered and accepted between ladies and gentlemen, who in many cases had no other excuses for the extravagance than those of purse pride and personal vanity.
Passing over this feature, which it is hoped that the good taste of my pupils will always reject as an ostentatious vulgarity, I take pleasure in saying that I consider the German, with its great number and variety of figures, and its adaptability to all social re-unions where dancing is indulged as a refined exercise and recreation, the " par excellence " of good taste and true art.
Any number of couples may form the cotillon, which may be arranged as above or in a complete circle, according to circumstances.
The condnctor begins a series of figures by waltzing once around the room with his partner ; and then designates by signs or verbal instruction such couples as he requires for the execution of particular figures.
One clap of the hands, loud enough to be heard above the sound of the music, indicates " Form circle." Two claps : " Return to seats."
Three claps : "Music cease."
Fonr claps : " Music change " — from waltz to polka, polka redowa, or galop (as may have been determined before beginning to dance).
Any series of signs, if agreed upon and understood generally by the dancers and musicians, will answer.
Dancing At Home And Abroad:
The Glide, Or Dodworth's Boston
The German, Or Cotillon
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