October 14, 2009

1863 Dancing Tips

Civil War Reenactor Dancing
The Cedar Creek Civil War Reenactment is upon us, and as all the men know, that means a battle and an early morning tactical and as all the ladies know it means a Ball.
At reenactments, men frequently discuss a "moment" that they experience on the battlefield, where they simultaneously embody the feelings and emotions of a Civil War soldier. They feel that the moment is real life.
Preparing for a Ball is the time that ladies feel their own "moment." We get lost in the excitement and the clothing. We giggle like schoolgirls, and fix each others' hair and wonder if that special someone will ask us to dance. The moment lasts all the way until we are being walked "home" by our cavalier. It is almost a parallel of emotions that we share with our foremothers, it is truly magical. 
For the occasion, I have included tips from a period instruction book on dancing, by Thomas Hillgrove, dancing master. I have linked to a later copy of Thomas Hillgrove's book; however, the two printings are virtually the same.

 Tips of Dancing from: Hillgroves Call Book and Dancing (1863)

For the Gentlemen:
           -    Never forget that ladies are to be the first cared for, to have the best seats, the places of distinction, and are entitled in all cases to your courteous protection (22.)
           -    In ascending a staircase with ladies, go at their side or before them (22.)
           -    Do not cross a room in an anxious manner, or force your way to a lady to merely receive a bow, as by so doing you attract the attention of the company to her. If you are desirous of being noticed by any particular persons, put yourself in their way as if by accident, and so not let it be seen that you have sought them out; unless, indeed, there be something very important to communicate (22.)
           -   A gentleman should not address a lady unless he has been properly introduced. It is improper also for two gentlemen to dance together when ladies are present (24.)

For the Ladies:
-         If you have in any manner given offence, do not hesitate to apologize. A gentleman on accidentally touching you, or passing before you, will ask pardon for the inconvenience he causes (22.)
-         While dancing, a lady should consider herself engaged to her partner, and therefore not at liberty to hold a flirtation, between the figures, with another gentleman; and should recollect that it is the gentleman’s part to lead her, and hers to follow his directions (23.)
-         At a private ball or party, a lady should not manifest preference for a particular partner, but should dance with any gentleman who properly asks her company (23.)
-         At a public ball, if a gentleman, without a proper introduction, asks a lady to dance, she should positively refuse (23.)
-         On no account should a lady parade a ball-room alone, nor should she enter it unaccompanied (23.)

For Both:

-         Never repeat in one company any scandal or personal history you have heard in another. Give your own opinion, if you please; but do not repeat the opinions of others (22.)
-         Anxiety to accommodate and to make all happy, is a distinguishing mark of a gentleman or lady (22.)
-         When meeting friends in public, you salute them the first time and not every time of passing (22.)
-         In company it is not required to defend friends, unless the conversation be personally addressed, and then any statement known to be wrong may be corrected (21.)
-         An introduction in the ball-room for the purpose of dancing, does not entitle you to afterwards claim acquaintance with a partner. All intimacy should end with the dance. It is proper, however, for the lady to recognize the gentleman, if such be her wish; he, of course, not failing to return the salutation (24.)

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