Dancing

illustration Pp.394-395

P. 397 In Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women, the author observes, that he must acknowledge he can see no reason for declamation against the moderate and discreet use of dancing. "I freely confess," he adds, "that I am one of those who can look on with a very sensible satisfaction, well pleased to see a company of young people, joyful with innocence, and happily in each other. If an exercise so sociable and enlivening, were to occupy some part of that time which is lavished on cards, would the youth of either sex be losers by it? I think not. It seems to me, there can be no impropriety in it, any more that in modulating the voice into the most agreeable tones in singing; to which none, I think, will object. What is dancing, in the most rigid sense, but the harmony of motion rendered more palpable? Awkwardness, rusticity, ungraceful gestures, can never surely be meritorious."

 

Of the Arms and Hands

2illustrations P.409

 

Pp. 408-410 The proper carriage of the arms is certainly one of he greatest difficulties in dancing; it therefore demands the utmost attention on the part of the pupil. Of all the movements made in dancing, the opposition, or contrast, of the arms with the feet is the most natural to us: to this, however, but little attention is in general paid. If any person be observed, when in the act of walking, it will be found, that when the right foot is put forward, the left arm follows and vice versa : this is at once natural and graceful; and a similar rule should, in all cases be followed in dancing. As much depends on placing the arms properly, and on moving them with grace, as in the execution of steps, - from dancing consists not in the motion of the feet alone, - it requires the appropriate accompaniment of the arms and body: without which, the art degenerates into a mere fantastic mode of stepping. The arms should be kept in an easy semi-oval position, so that the bend of the elbows be scarcely perceptible; otherwise, the would present right angles which would so offend the eye, as to destroy all appearance of ease or elegance. Care must be taken, neither to raise the shoulders nor to spread the arms too far out. The proper situation of the arms, in dancing, is a little in front of the body: they should advance or recede in a natural series of oppositions to the direction of the feet in the execution of the various steps; their movements, in performing these contrasts, must not be sudden or exaggerated, but so easy as to be almost imperceptible. The dress should be held between the fore-finger and thumb of each hand: it is a matter of importance to overcome both tremor and rigidity of the fingers, which should be gracefully grouped, so that the palm be partially seen in front. In dancing Quadrilles, when the lady advances with her partner, and in all the figures where the hands join, the arms should be kept of such a moderate height as is consistent with grace (Fig. 1) It is also necessary that the arms should be properly supported, and not suffered to weigh or drag upon those of the persons with whom it may be proper to join hands in the course of the dance. To say nothing of the positive impropriety of falling into such an error, the mere act, during its continuation, is quite destructive to grace, which cannot exist where ease is not apparent. Elegance, without affectation, may be shown in presenting the hand to a partner: rustic abruptness, and childish timidity, are equally to be avoided; a modest confidence is the golden mean to be observed in this, as in every other department of ball-room dancing. To grasp the hand of a person with whom it is necessary to join hands,- to detain it when it should be relinquished, - are faults which, we trust, our reader's good sense would prevent her from committing, even when dancing with one of her own sex; but even these offences, in the consideration of propriety and taste, are not more grave than that of display. However excellently a young lady may dance, and whatever powers of brilliant execution she may possess, she should never forget that she is in a ballroom, and not on a stage: studied attitude in presenting the hand (Fig. 2) is reprehensible, as being productive of too much effect, and as showing an inclination for display. Correct execution of the figure and steps, and unobtrusive grace of deportment, should be the zenith of a young lady's ambition; as Shakespeare finely expresses the perfection of dancing, she should move like a wave of the sea; it being, of course, understood, when the elements are in their most gentle motion. When the hand is not to be presented to another, the arm should depend from the shoulder in an easy oval shape, as previously directed.

 

Of The Feet, &c.

illustration P. 410

 

Pp. 410-411 The principal study, with regard to the feet, in dancing, consists in acquiring a power of turning them properly outward; in bending the instep, without effort, immediately the foot quits the ground; and in alternately practicing with each foot, so that both may attain an equal degree of execution; it being decidedly inelegant and awkward for one foot to be constantly active and correct in its movements, while the other remains comparatively unemployed.

To dance with the instep concave, instead of convex, and the toes turned upwards, instead of the contrary, is termed dancing flat-footed, and is ungraceful to the last degree. The toes should be well pointed downward, and the knees outward, to correspond with them; but it is impossible to produce an union of grace in these particulars, unless the action of the instep and the knee be supported and accompanied by that of the hip. In the ball-room, tall the steps should be performed in an easy graceful manner: no noise of stamping should, on any account be made; the steps should be performed with minute neatness, and in as small a compass as possible; the feet should never be violently tossed about, or lifted high from the ground: the young lady should rather seem to glide, with easy elegance, than to strive to astonish by agility: or, by violent action, make it appear, that, to her, dancing is a boisterous and difficult exercise. (Fig. 3, illustration of the waltz.) But while we thus caution our reader against adopting those styles, - one of which may be deemed operatic, and better adapted to a ballet than a Quadrille, and the other, rustic, and more applicable to the village-green than the ball-room, - it is necessary for us to warn her against falling into the opposite error of listlessness and inaccuracy; with these, elegance can never be obtained: the former makes her appear to be condescending to join in an amusement she despises, and the latter induces a supposition in the minds of those who may not be supposed to know aught to the contrary, that she is either unusually dull, or has never had an opportunity of obtaining the benefit of instruction from a proper master.

 

Of the Bust

 

P.411 It has been very judiciously remarked, by a contemporary writer on this subject, that the pupils of a great artiste will display his merit in the graceful movement of the figure, as much as in the neat execution of the steps.

The body should never be suffered to sink into idle attitudes; as rounding the back forcing the shoulders up to the ears, projecting the back part of the waist, or stooping forward: such careless habits, if long permitted, eventually produce local deformities. Affectation of primness is as much to be avoided as indolence: the admirable union of ease and grace, which constitutes elegance of deportment, can never be obtained by those who indulge in either of these faults. The body should always be kept in an easy and unaffected erect position, except in the execution of certain steps which require the bust to be thrown a little forward: but, even in these case, care must be taken that the body do not lose its perfect balance. The chest should be advanced, the waist retiring, and the shoulders depressed: by these means, the bust will be naturally and elegantly developed; and the shoulders, by being brought to range evenly with the back, appear of their proper breadth, and form a graceful contrast to the waist.

 

Of The Head

 

Pp. 411-412 The head should be kept centrally between the shoulders by the erectness of the neck: the face may, of course, be occasionally turned to the right or left, not merely for convenience, or to avoid an appearance of constraint, but because the opposition which may be produced by a judicious change of the direction in which countenance is turned, to the posture of the body or limbs, materially enhances the grace of the whole figure. The turn of the head should be so managed as to perfect the real and apparent balance of the figure. If the greatest weight be thrown on one side, the head may, generally speaking, be very advantageously turned, in a trifling degree, in an opposite direction. The reader may convince herself of the benefit to be derived by a graceful inclination of the countenance, so as to produce an easy opposition, alternately to each side, or keeping it in the same direction, and practicing, in turns, with each foot. The head should be thrown considerably backward and the forehead brought to project in a slight degree, by drawing the chin towards the neck. The countenance during a dance, should be illumined by a smile: it is perfectly absurd for a young lady to exhibit a melancholy aspect amid the gaieties of a ballroom, and painful to see her assume an aspect of care, when going through a Quadrille; as it induces the spectators to imagine, that the performance of the steps or figure, so entirely engross her faculties, that she is incapable of partaking in the pleasures of the dance.

 

 

Poem: Health and Ballroom activities

 

P. 76 "Away! away! thiser is ganer here,-

A terrible phantom is bending near;

Ghastly and sunk, his rayless eye

Scowls on thy loveliness scornfully;

With no human look, with no human breath,

He stands beside thee, - the haunter DEATH.

 

"In the lighted hall where the dancers go,

Like beautiful spirits, to and fro, -

When thy fair arms glance in their stainless white,

Like ivory bathed in the still moonlight,

And not one star in the holy sky

Hath a clearer light than thine own blue eye, -

 

"O, then, even then, he will follow thee,

As the ripple follows the bark at sea;

In the softened light, in the turning dance,

He will fix on thine his dead, cold glance;

The chill of his breath on thy cheek shall linger,

And thy warm blood shrink from his icy finger!"