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From the Ballroom to Hell: Grace and Folly…
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From the Ballroom to Hell: Grace and Folly in Nineteenth-Century Dance (edition 1991)

by Elizabeth Aldrich

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Member:lilithcat
Title:From the Ballroom to Hell: Grace and Folly in Nineteenth-Century Dance
Authors:Elizabeth Aldrich
Info:Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991. xix, 225 p. : ill. ; 29 cm.
Collections:Your library, Reviewed
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Tags:social customs, dance

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From the Ballroom to Hell: Grace and Folly in Nineteenth-Century Dance by Elizabeth Aldrich

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This is a fascinating compilation of excerpts from 19th-century American etiquette, fashion, dance and beauty manuals, to which Aldrich has added an introduction which introduces us to the world these books addressed.

(For men): "Never dance without gloves. This is an imperative rule. It is best to carry two pair, as in the contact with dark dresses, or in handing refreshments, you may soil the pair you wear on entering the room, and will thus be under the necessity of offering your hand covered by a soiled glove, to some fair partner. You can slip unperceived from the room, change the soiled for a fresh pair, and then avoid that mortification"

(For women): "If a gentleman presumes to ask you to dance without an introduction, you will of course refuse. It is hardly necessary to supply the fair reader with words to repel such a rudeness; a man must have more than ordinary impertinence if he was not satisfied by your saying, "I must decline, sir, not having the honor of your acquaintance;" and recollect that his previous rudeness ought to be punished by your refusing to be introduced."

And a dreadful warning:

"[In waltzing] he presses [his partner] close to his breast and they glide over the floor together as if the two were but one.

When she raises her eyes, timidly at first, to that handsome but deceitful face, now so close to her own, the look that is in his eyes as they meet hers, seems to burn into her very soul. A strange, sweet thrill shakes her very being and leaves her weak and powerless and obliged to depend for support upon the arm which is pressing her to himself in such a suggestive manner, but the sensation is a pleasant one and grows to be the very essence of her life.

She grows more bold, and from being able to return shy glances at first, is soon able to meet more daring ones until, with heart beating against heart, hand clasped in hand, and eyes looking burning words which lips dare not speak, the waltz becomes one long, sweet and purely sensual pleasure.

But let us turn our attention again to the dancers, at two o-clock the next morning. This is the favorite waltz, and the last and most furious of the night, as well as the most disgusting. Let us notice, as an example, our fair friend once more.

She is now in the vile embrace of the Apollo of the evening. Her head rests upon his shoulder, her face is upturned to his, face to face they whirl on, his limbs interwoven with hers, his strong right arm around her yielding form, he presses her to him until every curve in the contour of her body thrills with the amorous contact. Her eyes look into his, but she sees nothing; the soft music fills the room, but she hears it not; he bends her body to and fro, but she knows it not; his hot breath, tainted with strong drink, is on her hair and cheek, his lips almost touch her forehead, yet she does not shrink; his eyes, gleaming with a fierce, intolerable lust, gloat over her, yet she does not quail. She is filled with the rapture of sin in its intensity; her spirit is inflamed with passion and lust is gratified in thought. With a last low wail the music ceases, and the dance for the night ended, but not the evil work of the night.
"

Oh, my.
  lilithcat | Sep 21, 2017 |
Not a nuts-and-bolts dance manual. Rather, the author quotes a wide variety of period dance manuals to present a nice overview of 19th Century customs and manners in polite society, including descriptions of popular dances. Useful, accessible insights for period performers and re-enactors. Great source notes for period dance re-creators. ( )
  Bestine | Mar 30, 2006 |
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