( Originally Published 1898 )
In this chapter, designed especially for the entertainment of gentlemen, I feel less of constraint, and freer to discuss my subject in all its bearings.
While the relative positions of the sexes remain as they now are, it will always be the case that the social habits, tastes, manners, and accomplishments of gentlemen will influence, and to a great extent control, those of ladies. Especially is this true with regard to recreations and amusements. Our domestic and social policies are so arranged, that young ladies are almost entirely dependent on the contingent attention of their gentlemen acquaintance for their social enjoyment. To balls, parties, theatres, and excursions, they cannot go, satisfactorily to their pride, unless invited by some one of the gentlemen on their visiting-list. Many young ladies have fathers, brothers, or other male relatives, who might, much oftener than they do, accompany them to places of amusement. Brothers generally (but, to the credit of the order, be it said, there are shining exceptions) prefer to " go out " with some other gentleman's sister ; or, when they do go with their own, wear the look of martyrs to fraternal duty. Perhaps the sisters are as much to blame for this as the brothers. In either event, custom and habit are the two agents that have established this order of affairs, and at present there is no remedy. This very fact of the ladies' dependence should impress gentlemen with the delicacy and responsibility of their position, with re reference to the courtesy to be shown whenever they arc honored with the company and confidence of ladies.
It is with his gentlemen's class that the dancing-teacher must, exercise all his ability in theory and in practice. A gentleman, before inviting a lady to join him in a dance at a ball or private party, should be sure that he is fully competent to direct and conduct her through all its intricacies. If a quadrille, he should be thoroughly conversant with all its figures ; and above all things should know precisely at what numerical bars in the music to begin and end the movements.
We will take the Lancers quadrille for an example, and endeavor to explain. As an introduction to each figure (except the fifth — and sometimes to that also), eight bars are played before the dance begins. If the figures are ' • called " by a prompter, the " call " should be made during the bar of music immediately preceding that with which the movement is to begin.
For instanco : " First four forward 'and back." This call should be made during the eighth bar of the introduction, taking sufficient time, as will be seen, for the voice of the prompter and the last note of the eighth bar to expire simultaneously ; so that, when the first bar of the following strain begins, the dancers may move at the same instant with it. The next call," turn," being composed of but one word, does not require to be given with so much space. To make the forward and back movement, requires four bars of music ; and to " turn " at the centre of the figure, and retire to places, requires four more. Therefore the order " turn " should be given during the fourth, or last, bar of this first movement, so that the " turn " may begin with the fifth, and end with the eighth.
This rule will apply generally to all square or figure dances ; and if gentlemen would bear it in mind, they would avoid much of the embarrassing confusion to which they often subject themselves and their partners through forgetfulness or carelessness.
It is to be hoped that the time will come when " calling " will be obsolete in our ball-rooms and parlors ; and when the gentlemen who manage our social affairs will all be competent to conduct themselves and their partners through the mazes of the fashionable and popular dances without the assistance of a prompter.
Gentlemen will therefore perceive that the point of departure from which they must shape their course in learning to dance is pre-eminently self-reliance.
However naturally graceful one may be, hesitation or uncertainty will give him an appearance of awkwardness. He must know precisely when and where to begin and end each particular figure in the dance, and how to keep time and distance with every tone and suggestion of the music. Having acquired this knowledge and proficiency, he is competent to lead any lady— even though she may not have attempted to dance previously through the figures of the ordinary square dances, with pleasure to her, and satisfaction to himself.
In round dances, however, the responsibility of the gentleman is greatest ; and his first and most necessary qualification must be the knowledge how to support, sustain, and guide the lady in her movements. Ile may be the most graceful, skilful, and attractive dancer, in his own person, in the room ; and. yet, if his support and management of the lady be not equally easy, confident, and skilful, he will neither do himself credit, nor afford his partner satisfaction.
Especially is it necessary, now that ladies arc wearing drawing-room and dinner dresses at balls, that he should understand the engineering of " trains " in all their most extravagant curves, lengths, and contortions. Also he must be sure of his footing and vertical equilibrium, when dashing through a crowd to the " clear-the-track " music of the plop, or he will be in imminent peril of being swept into a corner with the rush of a " flying train." The mere technical rules of dancing, as applied to the education of the feet, are simple enough, and may be easily mastered under the direction of a capable teacher.
It is the higher branch, the " savor vivre" of the art, that renders it not only a desirable accomplishment, but also a valuable educational study, and social agent.
A gentleman who has learned at dancing-school, either in his youth or later, how to approach and bow to a lady, how to offer his hand to conduct her in a dance, how to sit or stand when in the presence of ladies, will find the knowledge valuable to him, not only in. his social relations, but in professional and public life as well.
It is not intimated that these accomplishments cannot be acquired outside of a dancing-school.
Leaving out the practical features of his profession, it is to the cultivated manners, intellectual dignity, and moral and social accomplishments of the majority of his patrons and pupils, that the author is indebted for some of the most valuable of the theories here advanced ; and the great ambition of his work is, not that he may gratify a morbid taste for criticism to the disadvantage of any, but that he may excite the worthy emulation of all, and finally experience the satisfaction of having in some sort contributed to the equalization of the accomplishment of all his pupils, so that, instead of glaring contrasts, there may be appropriate comparisons only.
When a gentleman has taken position on the floor with a lady, he should remain at her side until the dance begins, as well as during the intervals between the figures, unless it should be necessary to leave temporarily to perform some service for her, or in answer to a call from some other lady on a matter of importance. In either case, he should excuse himself, and remain absent as short a time as possible.
Voluntarily to leave the lady you are dancing with, for the purpose of conversing with another, is disrespectful to your partner, and an intrusion on the privilege of the gentleman who may be dancing with that other lady. Generally there is ample time between dances to say all that the general etiquette of the ball-room requires to the different ladies of your acquaintance. If you desire, however, to have an extended conversation with any other than your partner for the time being, engage her to dance, and claim her company as soon after the dance preceding that for which the engagement was made, as will be convenient and agreeable to her.
Engagements, even when there are programmes, should not be made beyond the third or fourth dance ahead. Gentlemen who arrive early, and rush about, eagerly dividing among themselves all the Choice dances on ladies' programmes, evince a want of consideration for the enjoyment and possible preferences of those who may arrive later (both ladies and gentlemen), that is not consistent with true courtesy.
Ladies like to be popular ; and naturally it affords them satisfaction when all the spaces on their programmes are filled early ; and yet they are often annoyed when some particular friend, not expected perhaps, enters the room late, and, requesting the pleasure of a dance, must be disappointed, or, with the lady's permission (which is sometimes accorded) , commit the rudeness of -writing his name over one already on the card.
In the latter event, the neglected gentleman owes it to himself to accept the lady's affront in dignified silence ; but he is quite justifiable in showing his contempt for the favored one who had not the gentlemanly breeding to avoid placing himself in such a position.
When a lady and gentleman meet on the street, or at any other public place, if they are only casually acquainted, it is the lady's privilege to make the first sign of recognition ; and a gentleman who has been introduced at any general entertainment should always, on meeting the lady for the first time afterward, wait for her to make such sign before saluting or addressing her. Should the lady pass without recognizing him, it is generally an intimation that she declines to know him ; and no true gentleman will express his mortification at the slight. Tier failure to recognize him may be from forgetfulness ; but in such event, if the gentleman be really worth knowing, pride will enable him to bear the infliction without any great damage to his self-esteem. If he is not worth knowing, he has only received a merited rebuke. The degree of acquaintanceship that will authorize the gentleman to bow first can only be positively determined from the circumstances of each particular 'case. Generally it is admissible, when the two have met several times, and the lady has signified her willingness to continue the acquaintance.
When one has been presented to a lady at her own, or the house of an intimate friend, by any member of her own or the family or familiar guests of such friend, it is quite proper for him to make the first sign of recognition on meeting her again. Should the lady fail to acknowledge the salute, it is quite likely that she has reasons satisfactory and sufficient to herself, and the gentleman must submit in silence, or make his inquiries as to the cause in a dignified and deferential manner through the friend who presented him, and abide by the result of the investigation. Should the lady's conduct prove to have been the result of affectation, coquetry, or arrogance, the gentleman may easily afford to dispense with the acquaintance, and to apply, at the same time, as a salve to his wounded sensibilities, the generous reflection : " Dux formina facti."
To compose a complete code of social etiquette for the guidance of his pupils, prescribing rules of conduct for every occasion and emergency, is more than the dancing teacher's duties require him to do, and more than any one individual could perhaps accomplish. Different societies and peoples have different habits and customs ; and true courtesy is an art that must adapt itself to all situations. There are, however, certain definite and comprehensive rules of action and of manner, that may be considered generally and necessarily applicable at all times and places. Among them the author has found the following, from reading, association, and observation, and offers them to his readers, not dictatorially, but suggestively.
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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