19CBRE: Following With Trust

(I thought I was very clever when I came up with the name for the post… and then a few days later I couldn’t remember what I was thinking the content should be! I guess if I confuse myself that easily I should certainly explain my cleverness so you can appreciate it, too!)

I was reading Thomas Hillgrove’s The Art of Practical Dancing from 1868 and I came across this passage on page 154:

“It is recommended that the lady, when waltzing, leave herself to the direction of her partner, trusting entirely to him, without in any case seeking to follow her own impulse. A lady who should endeavor to avoid an encounter with other dancers, would risk interfering with the intention of the gentleman, to whom alone should be trusted her security amid the crowd surrounding and crossing her in every direction.” 

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I thought, “Hm! Trusting myself entirely to my partner’s care is something I rarely do! I’m often giving non-verbal hints about my opinions on where we should go, how much we should rotate, etc… and depending on the ability of my partner, my hints sometimes come down to downright back-leading.” I’m sure this partly comes from eight or so years of competitive modern ballroom dancing, in which the leader is in charge, but the lady has the duty to do her part to see what’s going on around the floor and help ensure that crashes, etc. don’t occur, as well as my independent-modern-woman mindset. However, despite these reasons, I imagine Hillgrove would have taken exception to my dancing style!

I started thinking about whether it made sense for me to attempt Hillgrove’s method while dancing historical dances. I dance in three settings, at private rehearsals when the dance troupe I am part of is practicing for performances, during performances with said dance troupe, and at public balls when I am dancing with guests of varying abilities or with members of the dance troupe.

I think it boils down this way: when dancing in a performance there are goals of elegance, nice spacing between couples, etc. that we are aiming for, and my interpretation of our artistic directors’ instruction in addition to my own feeling is that every person dancing should contribute to these goals, so a bit of hinting makes sense for the context. I feel similarly about hinting while dancing at balls depending on the ability of my partner, and if the goal is to ensure the safety of myself, my partner, or other people who might cut us off, etc. I also feel justified in back-leading a partner who needs some assistance to stay with the music, avoid crashes, or know how much rotation to complete in a given step, etc… but it sounds like I don’t really ever  follow with trust!

With these thoughts in mind at a recent ball, I attempted to follow partners (whose abilities I have faith in) with trust. It was surprisingly uneventful! I think it really comes down to the ability of a partner in order to determine if I’m comfortable with that level of trust. Do you entirely follow your partners with trust at historical dance events? Or are you like me, picking and choosing when you feel comfortable doing so?

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Success! Time to go home.

(As another side note, it’s been just about a year since my last 19CBRE post. If you’re not sure what that’s all about, check out this introductory post. You can see all of the posts relating to 19CBRE here. Perhaps this year I’ll get around to posting more of the interesting tidbits I’ve been thinking of posting over the last year!)

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About quinnmburgess

Quinn M. Burgess creates reproduction and costume historic clothing. Her inspiration has a strong foundation in history: historic dress, social history, and material history. With the addition of clothing construction knowledge, her passions converge in an imaginative world of creative history that she loves to share with others.
This entry was posted in 1860s, 19CBRE: 19th Century Ball Room Etiquette, 19th Century, Contemporary Quotations, Social History, Vintage Dancing: 19th Century and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to 19CBRE: Following With Trust

  1. I absolutely LOVE this dress, Quinn. I can’t recall her name at the moment. Great post, too. Big hugs! ~ Mom

  2. I pick and choose. If the partner is unskilled and is making us a floor hazard, I will backlead. If they’re someone I know to be a good, strong lead, I will happily let them waltz me where they may.

  3. Raven says:

    This was an interesting read!
    I’ve been thinking about leading recently also, but with regards to variations–should I stop offering suggestions and let my partner do all the work? When I lead, it’s always nice to have help coming up with variation ideas from my partner. I think I like having steering suggestions too, but maybe that’s because I’m an opinionated follower 🙂

    • I suppose it depends on your partner. If he is grateful for the ideas and doesn’t get distracted by your suggestions, then it sounds good to me. I think sometimes the leaders forget variations when they go out on the floor to dance.

  4. As I danced Leader (gentleman ) in a danceteam with only girls for the past 20years, I haven a bit trouble just follow in dance (and in life😉).
    But as you say, I’t depends hugely on my partners skill how much I can relax and just let go and follow, or use hints/bodylanguage to get a Nice flow. And sometimes even take overaller the stearin wheel compleatly even from the Followers (Ladys) place.

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