Part II: …and dance cards
This ball included the use of dance cards, a practice I am aware of but have never participated in. It turns out that they are much more complicated than one thinks they might be! Why are the so complicated?
Well, it all sounds quite glorious and sophisticated. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “dance-card” as “a card bearing the names of (a woman’s) prospective dance partners at a dance.” In stories and books, a dance card is a memento one can keep so that after the ball is over she can muse about beaus and flirtations. Practically, a dance card might help a person remember who his or her next partner is, what kind of dance the next dance is, or allow a gentleman to ask for a dance later in the evening.
But wait! There are complications and confusions! Does everyone have a dance card, men and women? Does a person take off his or her gloves before writing in a dance card? (I attempted this both ways: it is quite challenging to write your name while wearing gloves…) Does one exchange dance cards with a prospective partner or ask the name of the person and write it herself? (It seems more effective to swap dance cards with your intended partner to allow for ease of spelling, etc. and, in a more romantic sense, so that you have that person’s handwriting in your dance card.) How does one attach the card to her wrist so that it doesn’t get lost? How does one attach the card to her wrist without the pencil sticking out (so that her white dress isn’t marked!)? Really, a lot of questions popped up that would not have made themselves apparent without practical application. Also, at least at this ball, not having a prearranged partner did not necessarily mean that you were not able to dance. I was able to dance most of the dances of the night, despite my somewhat empty dance card.
Below you can see a few historic dance card images and below that some images of the ball! If anyone has any research on the use or history of dance cards, please share. I’d love to learn more about the etiquette of dance card use!
Here’s a video of the Grand March in action!