19CBRE: Prudent Dance Planning

In 2014, I started a series of posts using the acronym 19CBRE, meaning “19th Century Ball Room Etiquette”. (You can read about my reasons for starting this series of posts in the original post here.) I’ve been on-and-off-again posting in this category (the last post was in 2016…), but I’ve had some further ideas in mind despite not actually posting them.

This quote reminds me of the final ball I attended at a mid-19th century dance week in Denmark in 2017. It is sound advice if you prefer to maintain calm composure and not follow an evening’s ball with a day of recovery!

“If you are prudent you will not dance every dance, nor, in fact, much more than half the number on the list; you will then escape that hateful redness of face at the time, and that wearing fatigue the next day which are among the worst features of a ball.

The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen. London: Hogg and Sons, 1859. 343. (Available online here)

The reason the quote reminds me of Denmark is because I most certainly did not escape “that hateful redness of face”! That’s a tall order in a warm room. I was also exhausted the next day, but that was due in part to a wonderfully long week of dancing all day each day. As evidenced in this case, sometimes these evils are worth facing… and sometimes I find that I would rather conserve my energy for the dances I really enjoy and not dance every single dance. My choice often depends on the venue, the special qualities of the ball, and the skill level of my partners. Facing a challenging set of dances in a special ball at a special place is more likely to lead me away from the etiquette manual’s guidance. What choice would you make?

If you’d like to read more of the snippets of etiquette I’ve highlighted over the years you can do so here.

4 thoughts on “19CBRE: Prudent Dance Planning

  1. Mercy!! And merci. I clicked on the link to the book. Amazing. Oh, the wonders of living in another era.

    Love you & your post.

    ~ mom

  2. You invoke advice that ladies might wisely embrace in today’s historic ballroom. Consider it perhaps a silver lining to the cloud of rivalry that too often descends over all and sundry upon the distribution of dance cards at the threshold. I am informed that it is the universal experience of the fair guests that there is invariably an insufficiency of men willing to do their duty.

    Even those gentlemen in attendance will in many cases have arrived as the hostages of their ladies. Some of these fellows may consequently not be eager to take to the floor at every reprise, nor well rehearsed in the dancer’s art. Perhaps their aspiring partners would anyhow find themselves ill-satisfied by a turn about the room with such a person.

    The spirit of the fair guest, as well as her strength and complexion, might therefore best be served by choosing as many as possible of her favorites among the dances and partners for the evening, but not otherwise insisting on remaining every moment upon the boards. More importantly, she must take care not to account the proceedings lessened by the measure of dances relinquished.

    That said, your own countenance must, to all appearances, seem impossible to mar, even by the flush of exertion. The ease of populating your dance card with the most agile and well-looking partners must therefore tempt you constantly to dispense with the counsel of etiquette!

    In such a case, perhaps a more promising injunction to temperance would be to consider the pleasure of your fellow guests. How much greater, then, the respite of quitting the floor for an instant, to watch the others’ sport!

    Or you could just go for it and lock in that dance card right up front!

    1. You read the author’s mind! The very next section of the manual is about men who choose not to participate in dancing during a ball. I enjoyed your thoughts very much, David. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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