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Special Classes And Specialists

( Originally Published 1898 )

By "special classes" is meant, classes composed of a certain number of pupils, organized of themselves for the purpose of learning certain particular dances. The meetings of these special classes are generally held at private houses, but sometimes (and more satisfactorily) at the dancing-academy, during hours specially set apart for their accommodation. To the pupils composing a special class, there is one advantage which those in a general school do not always enjoy ; and that is the advantage of mutual and agreeable acquaintance, and the absence of the embarrassment that so frequently attends the first efforts of pupils in the general school. These classes, too, are numerically small in comparison with others ; and enjoying, as they usually do, the additional advantage of some previous knowledge and practice of dancing, their progress in learning new steps and figures is more rapid and satisfactory than would be the case otherwise.

It is rather a matter of surprise, in view of the fact that dancing has been so much improved and modified within the past few years, in Europe and in our Northern cities, that our Southern leaders of fashion do not, by forming such classes, avail themselves of the advantages to be derived from correct instruction in the modern styles, rather than to depend on their necessarily brief and casual observations made during summer-tours, at watering-places and in ball-rooms, where the diversity in the talents and styles of the dancers is apt to confuse and perplex them.

It is hardly necessary to say that these observations are not made from selfish motives, However much to my personal interest it may be to seek to influence social opinion, for the purpose of recruiting my classes, it is more to my credit as a conscientious critic, to point out what I believe to be the abuses of one of the polite arts, and a necessary constituent, at the present day, of cultivated society. And this reflection suggests to me the propriety of introducing here some remarks concerning a class or kind of dancers very appropriately (by Professor Dodworth) called " specialists."

Shortly after the original " two-step Boston," or " the dip," appeared in society (an emanation from and sort of compromise with the stage " can-can," the dance which many young gentlemen, even at the present time, perform under the mistaken impression that they are dancing

Dodworth's Boston," or, as it is now generally called in the South, " the glide,") shortly after the appearance of that ungraceful and indelicate dance in the ballrooms and parlors, certain young men, the " specialists " (who, in large cities, especially in New York, find their way to the soirees of " la crime," through their well-known proficiency in the physical accomplishment of dancing, and who are usually invited for no other reason), followed it. And here began that habit (in execrable taste) of " dipping " and " striding " in the " Boston Dip " to every air and tune played by the musicians. Polka, schottische, waltz, mazurka, quadrille, Lancers, varietes, or what not ; two-four, three-four, four-four, or six-eight time, were all one to the specialist. He could dance the " Boston Dip ; " and he lost no opportunity to advertise the fact to the (as he imagined) admiring eyes of all !

Frequently, while giving lessons at my hall, I have taken occasion to advise my pupils against this display of bad taste ; and it affords me real pleasure to be able to say, that, almost universally, they have paid me the compliment to defer to my judgment. I have very rarely, if ever, observed them attempting to dance the glide to any other than glide time ; except necessarily, sometimes, when musicians were playing waltzes in six-eight time, they were compelled to waltz in half-time, that is, three steps to two bars instead of one, in order to avoid complete prostration from violent and ungraceful motion.

Dancing At Home And Abroad:
The Dancing Academy

Music And Musicians

System In Teaching



To Gentlemen


Special Classes And Specialists

Balls And Soirees


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