Edward Scott.

Dancing and dancers; or, grace and folly online

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3 3333 05752 4619


793-25 Scott

Dancing and dancers; or,

Grace and folly.





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THE opinions expressed in the following pages on
various matters directly or indirectly connected
with dancing are not in any way restricted by the
conventional notions that are usually entertained
respecting such matters. The book, therefore,
is in no sense to be regarded as a ball-room guide.
On the contrary, whatever information it con-
tains is chiefly of a kind that is not be found in
ball-room guides, or, indeed, in any work on
dancing that has hitherto been published.

All facts, except such as I have been fortu-
nate enough to discover by observation, are given
on good authority, a -id may -be accepted as true;


but the inferences drawn from 'them 0re simply
my own, and should, of course, be assented to
only when it appears that satisfactory reason is
given for my way of thinking.


DEPAK i .. .NT

"'"" '?! MS,


It may be as well to anticipate the remark that
a flftft of "[email protected] is exemplified in the production

of the book. That may, or may not be ; I am
not going to start by disparaging my own work.
A man who does that shows at the outset that he
is not to be trusted, since nobody but a fool would
publish what he really considered worthless, un-
less, indeed, he had a very poor opinion of the
public discernment. That is not my case. I be-
lieve the present work to be of some value how-
ever small that value may be because I have
treated of subjects that I understand, and of
which I have had actual experience. Moreover,
I can certainly aver that what I have written is

I should not mention this fact, only it happens
that originality is by no means a quality which
characterises the generality of modern works on
dancing, most of which are merely productions of
the scissors and paste-pot. Someone has done
even me the hoi '.our cf reproducing whole para-
graphs from ** Dancing as it Should Be " what-
ever may be their worth and has skilfully


blended them with other matter, probably also,
not his own, without making the slightest ac-
knowledgment, without so much as putting the
customary inverted commas. I have my own
opinion about such practices, and can at least say
that every quotation in this book is properly
marked as such.

With regard to the manner of writing, if I
have not been uniformly serious, it is because I
do not consider that dancing is a subject which
properly admits of such treatment at least, not
when we regard it as a diversion. Besides, I
have had no intention of producing a dry treatise ;
I have wished, rather, to make the book amusing
as well as instructive, and trust that the intelli-
gent reader will have no difficulty in discrimina-
ting between passages intended to be taken an
serieux and those that are merely calculated to

provoke a smile.


6, Compton Terrace,



The Relation of Dancing to Health Hygienic Craze
Theory and Practice Amusements of the Greeks
-Principles of Enjoyment - - The Last Dance
Youthful Indiscretion Young Girls Coming Out
Beauty Ball Dresses Dancing and Morals Venti-
lation of Ball Rooms Electric Illumination
Cinderellas Number of Miles Waltzed in an Even-
ing Chaperones and their Charges Private Parties
Dancing all Night " Keeping it Up " Enjoyable
and Healthful Dances.


Scarcity of Good Dancers School Instruction Con-
ventional Teachers " Stupidity " Dancing Men
Why People should Learn to Dance.


The Principles of Gracefulness Illustrations of Actions
Relatively Ungraceful Deportment Natural Grace
Waltzing and Swinging Requirements towards


Gracefulness in Posture and Action Antique Sta-
tues Analogous qualities of Gracefulness Highland
Schottische Balance Influence of Fashion Helen
of Sparta and Mary of Scotland Greek Costume
Modern Dressmaking The " Line of Beauty "
Strange Caprices of Fashion African Women
Articles of Dress Destructive to Natural Gracefulness
The Action of Walking explained High-Heeled
Boots Effects of Tight Lacing on Grace of Motion
-Round Waists Civilization and Barbarism The
Venus de Milo and the Modiste Effects of Cos-
tume on Waltzing Conventional Deportment
Anecdotes of Marie Antoinette Sitting Down The
Culture of Grace ancing Obligations of


"Resuscitated Dances The Pavane The Galliard
Dancing in the Time of the Tudors The Volta, Co-
ran to and Canary The Influence of Royal Taste in
Dancing Dancing from the time of Elizabeth to
that of Charles II. Trenchmore and the Cushion-
DanceSunday-School Games The Ballet Minuets
and Gavottes.


Neglected Quadrilles Effects of Continual Waltzing
-Round Dances Waltzing to various Measures


An Exhibition of Skill 'Arry as a Model of De-
portment A " Gentleman " Transatlantic Dancing
The " Diagonal ' Lancers.


Representative " New Valsers " -A Popular Delusion
Probable Antiquity of the Waltz.


The Evolution of the Waltz The only Perfect Move-
ment Peculiarities of Waltzers Intuitive Waltzing
-Teachers who Advertise the " New Valse " Old
Definition of a Waltz German Waltzing What
constitutes a Perfect Waltz Automatic Movements
The Waltz in French Novels Proper Relative
Position of the Partners Muscular Action in
Waltzing Lightness Why some People fail to suc-
ceed On Teaching the Waltz.


Remarks on bad Dancing Former Prejudice against
Reversing How to acquire the Art Why com-
paratively easy for Ladies to Reverse Why diffi-
cult for Men Correct Muscular Action in Reversing
The only really efficacious Method of Instruction.


Waltz Music Treatment of the Waltz L. Novels
Romance and Reality Husband and Wife Mar-


riage brought about by Dancing Sweethearts lost
through Clumsiness.


On Laughter Miserable People Schools Happiness
of Childhood Ideas of the Early Fathers respecting
Dancing Letter of St. Jerome Dancing v. Cram-
ming Children's Pleasures and Troubles Unwise
Action of Parents Testing the Physical Powers of
Children Savage and Civilized Tests of Endurance
Effects of Over Study Physical Education
Crooked Girls Advantages of Learning to Dance.


Ovine Tendencies Love of Notoriety Foolish Prac-
tices Quadrille Dancers -Grumbling Making Pro-
grammes -Cliques Conclusion.


/ df NtW YUS5K



" The wise for cure on exercise depend."


"There is a time to dance."

ECCLES. iii. 5.

I PURPOSE, in the present chapter, to consider
dancing in its relation to health, and to enquire
how far modern terpsichorean arrangements are
consentaneous with that desirable, though some-
what rare, quality known as common-sense.

From the frequent use that has lately been
made of the term " hygienic/' it would seem that
people were becoming most solicitous that all
their surroundings should be thoroughly health-
ful ; indeed, so fashionable is the pursuit of
hygiene, that the word may perhaps be reckoned
an invaluable one for advertising purposes. An
article needs only to be announced as " hygienic,"
and a rapid sale is almost assured. Occasionally
it happens that the required conditions are not



fulfilled in the thing advertised ; but that does
not appear to make any material difference as
regards its acceptance by the public. Butler has
told us that

" Doubtless the pleasure is as great,
Of being cheated as to cheat,"

and I suppose there is a certain amount of truth
in the apothegm. Anyhow, I have seen boots
labelled " hygienic," into which no healthy foot
could possibly be squeezed, and " hygienic
corsets" which no healthy body could endure.
I know, also, that there are some so-called
" hygienic exercises 5: which, when administered
to the enfeebled frame without discretion, as
they often are, invariably do more harm than

Now it is my firm belief that much of the
present hygienic craze is the merest sham a
fashionable fad. If people were really concerned
about the cultivation of hygiene, they would
never dress and act in the absurd manner that
some of them do who pretend to be greatly
interested in the matter. Depend upon it, if the
English, like the nation that made the worship
of Hygeia a reality, would only exercise sufficient
mo in living, and discipline their amuse-

me ould do more towards preventing the


deterioration of the race than any amount of
pseudo-scientific cant.

Of course, no one with a grain of wisdom
would, nowadays, presume to depreciate the
value of true science; that is another matter.
So far, however, as actual living is concerned,
even if a person should possess a most profound
theoretical knowledge of the laws of hygiene, it
would not make him a bit healthier unless he
acted consistently with his theories. " Science,"'
as the Master in Oliver Wendell Holmes's book
observes, " is a first-rate piece of furniture for a
man's upper chamber if he has common-sense^ on
the ground-floor."

Let us, for a moment, turn to the habits and
amusements of those ancient Greeks, who religi-
ously observed what they conceived to be the
laws of health, and who made the culture of
personal grace and loveliness a special object of
their lives. " This," says Mr. Ruskin, speaking
of the beauty of the human countenance and
form, " they perceived could only be reached by
continual exercise of virtue ; and it was in
Heaven's sight and in theirs all the more beauti-
ful because it needed this self-denial to obtain it.
So they set themselves to reach this, and having
gained it, gave it their principal thoughts, and
set it off with beautiful dress as best they might.



But, making this their object, they were obliged
to pass their lives in simple exercise and disci-
plined employments. Living wholesomely, giving
themselves no fever fits, either by fasting or over-
eating, constantly in the open air, and full of
animal spirits and physical power, they became
incapable of every morbid condition of mental
emotion. Unhappy love, disappointed ambition,
spiritual despondency, or any other disturbing
sensation, had little power over their well-
braced nerves and healthy flow of the blood ; and
what bitterness might yet fasten on them was
soon boxed or raced out of a boy, and spun or
woven out of a girl, or danced out of both." *

What a tribute is this to the efficacy of
dancing ! Fancy dancing away the bitterness of
life ! Who would not learn to dance ?

That dancing is in itself a healthful, invigo-
rating exercise I suppose few will deny ; but as
regards the conditions under which it is fre-
quently practised at the present day, I have no
hesitation in affirming that they are incompatible
with the true principles of enjoyment, and are
detrimental to health and beauty.

It is evident that human nature is so consti-

* Painters," Vol. III., p. 183. See also " Ju-

vent ' chap. 10, " Ethics of the Heroic Age."


tuted that whatever is productive of pleasure,
whether intellectual or emotional, ceases to have
the same effect if continued beyond a certain
limit, for ere long the nervous power becomes
enfeebled and needs renovation. Thus few
people, even if fond of and able to appreciate
poetry, care to read a long poem at a sitting.
They prefer to take a few stanzas at a time.
Even a beautiful piece of music may, if too
lengthy, become wearisome to listen to, as the
mind gets exhausted, as it were, in its efforts to
follow the subtle beauties of the various passages.
Again, those who go to the yearly exhibitions at
Burlington House and elsewhere, know well
enough that if they attempt to see all the
pictures in one visit, the last galleries do not
afford them nearly the same amount of pleasure
as did the first. Moreover, that a condition of
actual bodily fatigue is inimical to enjoyment, is
a fact too obvious to need demonstration.

Professor Bain, in his work on " Mind and
Body," tells us that " the nerve-fibres and
corpuscles of the brain on being stimulated
undergo a process of change, whereby their
power is gradually exhausted ; in consequence of
which they need remission and repose. Hence
the first moments of a stimulus are always the
freshest, and give birth to the most vivid degrees


of consciousness. This is the condition more
especially requisite for maintaining a state of
pleasurable sensibility."

Now if this statement be accepted as true
and true it most undoubtedly is it certainly goes
to show that, in the nature of things, the first
hours spent at a ball should be more enjoyable
than the last. That is, as soon as the invincible
armour of stiffness that people generally encase
themselves in at the commencement of the
evening, has been thoroughly thrown off, then
the enjoyment should be at its height.

" But," says some reader, " how can this be ?
Why, I have found the last dance the most
enjoyable of any." To which the answer is, that,
even admitting this fact to be true, it does not
weaken the general statement. There may be
special reasons why you, my imaginary inter-
locutor, should have found this particular dance
the most enjoyable. It may have had something
to do with your partner, whom you may have
found more charming than any other, and whose
agreeable company and brilliant conversation
may have acted like a stimulant to your
exhausted nerves, and rendered you for the
time almost insensible to fatigue ; just as it
might happen that some particular picture
in the last gallery of paintings might rivet


your attention more than any you had seen in
the exhibition might re-awaken excitement and
interest, and cause you to linger and gaze with
delight. Or it may have been that the mere fact
of knowing that it ivas the last dance gave
added zest; just as some children make a great
deal of their last mouthful of pie, even if they
do feel a little sick. And, after all, it is not
against the last dance that I have anything to
say. A last dance is inevitable. It is only
against the number that have gone before it that
I speak.

The tendency to prolong physical recreation of
any kind to the point of exhaustion, should in all
cases be carefully guarded against. It unfortu-
nately happens, however, that discretion is a very
rare quality, especially in early life. The Pro-
fessor at the Breakfast Table states, that if you
wish to make a crucial experiment, as to whether
a human being is young or old, " offer a bulky
and boggy bun to the suspected individual just
ten minutes before dinner. If this is eagerly
accepted and devoured, the fact of youth is es-
tablished." Young people do not, I think,
evince more imprudence in eating than they do
in their amusements. I have known those who
have gone on walking tours, and, instead of de-
riving any benefit from the exercise, they have


attempted too much, and so laid themselves up.
Some cannot go to the seaside but they must
needs stay in the water too long, and do them-
selves more harm than good; and as to gym-
nastics, young men will frequently go from hard
mental work to hard physical work, without the
proper intervening period of rest will foolishly en-
deavour to recruit over-taxed brains by over-taxing
their muscles. I have actually known students of
physiology to injure themselves in this way
people who ought, at least, to have known some-
thing of the working of the muscular and
nervous systems. Truly, it would have been
better r r them had they possessed a little less
science and a little more common-sense. Danc-
ing itself may be considered a most salutary
recreation, because it brings all the principal
muscles into play. Gfood dancing is not by any
means confined to the legs, but the arms, back,
neck, and, indeed, every part of the body is more
or less actively employed, and as no apparatus
is used unless the partner be regarded in that
light there is little risk of the muscles being
over-strained. It consequently follows, that evil
of this description is only likely to accrue when
the action is continued too long ; in which case,
dancing, like all other exercises, ceases to prove
beneficial, and may become decidedly injurious.


To be really healthful, the exercise of dancing
should never be indulged in longer than four
hours at a stretch, for beyond the evil effects of
over exertion, the air in the ball-room, however
well ventilated it may be, is certain to become
more or less vitiated as the night wears on. One
of the effects of exercise, is, we know, to quicken
the respiration, and just think how many gallons
of carbonic acid may be drawn into the lungs after
midnight ! Think also, of the number of miles
that may be waltzed between the hours of ten
and four, by legs which can scarcely be induced
to walk a single mile in the morning sunshine !

Is it not wonderful what heroic feat ~ of this
description are sometimes performed by dtriicate
little bodies, under the influence of excitement
and champagne ?

It has always been a mystery to me how some
young girls can stand so much nocturnal dissi-
pation, if I may so term it, as they do. Directly
they leave school where it not unfrequently
happens that their physical powers have been
taxed by over brain-stimulation, in preparing for
a final examination the " coming-out " process
begins a round of unhealthy excitement in the
shape of balls, parties, theatres, and soirees.
Not, of course, that any of these things are
necessarily unhealthy in themselves, if indulged


in with discretion; but this is rarely the case.
Delicate young girls are kept up night after
night, and frequently all night, until the old
order of things is completely inverted, and it
becomes a case of rising with the setting sun
and going to bed as the lark rises. Surely this
must have a detrimental effect upon their looks.
Their lives are passed in an unnatural atmosphere,
and we can scarcely wonder that the roses on
their cheeks refuse to bloom if they are con-
stantly deprived of the morning sunshine. One
season is often sufficient to take the freshness
from a face, and it is futile to attempt to restore
artificially what is lost. There is as much difference
between the real and sham roses, as there is
between the artificial Christmas flowers of
drapers' windows, and those " unlocked by
spring to paint the laughing soil."

Each hour spent at a ball after midnight is,
metaphorically speaking, a draught drawn on
the Bank of Beauty a bank in which few of us
are fortunate enough to possess a large balance
and if nothing afterwards be paid in, as it were,
in the way of refreshing sleep and morning
breezes, it is astonishing how soon, by continuing
the cheque-drawing process; we shall discover
that the fund is exhausted.

It is generally supposed that in the human


race the male sex is composed of somewhat
tougher material than [the female is hardier,
in fact. But there are not, I am sure, many men
who would care to venture out in the depth of
Winter, with no inconsiderable portion of -the
upper part of their bodies exposed to the night
air, or at least only protected by a loose wrap.
It will be said that the reason is because men are
not used to going about with their arms and
shoulders bare. Well, neither are women.
Many of them never wear a low-necked dress,
except on rare occasions,' when there is a special
risk attached to their doing so. There are some
women who are wise enough to always completely
cover their bodies, notwithstanding the prevail-
ing fashion to the contrary. How far they may
be influenced by the fear of taking a chill, and
how far by the consideration that the human
form is not invariably cast in a classic mould, I
will not venture to enquire ; but in either case
they may be credited with a more than ordinary
share of common-sense. On the other hand,
there is, perhaps, nothing lovelier in nature than
the perfect female bust and arms that is, when
characterised by refinement and delicacy of form,
as in the old Greek statues, rather than by gross
development. But ladies who good-naturedly
reveal their charms for the gratification of be-


holders (a practice to which, so long as a certain
amount of discretion is observed, exception can
only reasonably be taken on the ground of personal
risk), should be careful that they do not them-
selves suffer thereby, and should have constant
recourse to wraps. Some girls are unfortunately
very imprudent in this respect. They will go
from an over-heated ball-room into a cold outer
conservatory, or covered balcony, without even
so much as throwing a shawl around them.

I hope it will not be inferred from some of the
foregoing remarks, that the writer is one of those
social smellfunguses who seek to discover harm
in whatever conduces to the enjoyment of young
people ; or one who, for some reason, is prevented
from participating in the pleasures of the ball-
room, 'and condemns that of which he has had
little experience. The opinion of a lame man
who deprecates the practice of dancing, may not
be of much account, nor is, I think, that of those
particularly orthodox people, who decry terpsi-
chorean pleasures from a religious point of view,
and prate about the impropriety attached to
them. The Dean of Manchester very sensibly
remarked, a short time since that " the lonely
walk has oftener led to mischief than the
dance," and, depend upon it, whatever there may
be in dancing that shocks the tender suscepti-


bilities of the " unco guid," attaches rather to
the persons than the pastime. Those who are
that way inclined will probably not be much
better when in church than they are in a
ball-room, only in the former place their impro-
priety may be tempered with hypocrisy. There
are, it is ceitain, many people who have a great
deal to say about subjects of which they can
practically know very little. But that is not my
case. I write as a teacher of the art, and it is
not against dancing, but only against the abuse
of dancing, that I would inveigh.

And as for the amusements of young people, I
have myself some distance to travel before reach-
ing the downward slope of life, and can enjoy a
dance as well as anybody. I like also to witness
the rational enjoyment of others ; but it gives
me no pleasure to contemplate that which I know
to be prejudicial to health, and I would that all
the surroundings of the chief amusement of the
Winter months were as thoroughly healthful
as are those of lawn-tennis and other Summer

But how, it may be asked, is this desirable end
to be accomplished, seeing that, from our having
so long accustomed ourselves to regard dancing as
an evening pastime, a dance given by daylight,
especially in a room, would seem a very milk-and-


water kind of affair would fall flat, and most
probably prove altogether unenjoyable ?

In other words, how is it possible to continue
to dance at night without incurring the evils
mentioned ?

Well, I can only suggest two obvious remedies.
The first is the extremely simple plan of confining
the hours of dancing within more reasonable
limits. This has already been tried with great
success, and those pleasant early dances known as
Cinderellas which ought, consistently, to termin-
ate punctually at twelve o'clock bid fair to be-
come a recognised fashionable institution. Of
these I shall speak more particularly further on.
The second is, however, the really efficacious
remedy, although, unfortunately, it is not at pre-

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Online LibraryEdward ScottDancing and dancers; or, grace and folly → online text (page 1 of 9)