A look at Regency Dancing, part 1

 

Evening gown

Evening gown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Dances of the Regency era were lively and bouncy. Ladies pinned up the trains of their ball gowns for ease in performing the steps. Steps ranged from simple skipping to elaborate ballet-style movements.  Country dances, the scotch reel, cotillion, quadrille made up most of the dancing.  Many versions of these dances existed and often the lady of the leading couple would get to select the specific one that was to be danced.

 

In the country dance, dancers lined up groups of at least five couples, men on the left and women on the right. Dancers would perform various figures with their partners and the other dancers near them. At the conclusion of each set of figures, couples would progress: the first couple would move down a place and the second couple up. Dance figures continued until the entire set had returned to its original positions. In large sets, this could take an quite some time to complete.

 

 

 

English Country Dance

 

 

Some insisted that reels were better suited to private balls than public assemblies because of their merry character. In this dance four, or sometimes six, dancers would perform interlacing figures with one another then pause for a sequence of fancy footwork similar to a Highland Fling.

 

The cotillion was a French import, with elaborate footwork. It was performed in a square or long ways, like the country dance. It consisted of a “chorus” figure unique to each dance which alternated with a standard series of up to ten “changes” (simple figures such as a right hand star) common to cotillions in general). Some considered cotillions out of fashion by 1800.

 

Cotillion

 

 

The quadrille was a dance for four couples, in a square. It consisted of five distinct parts or figures assembled from individual cotillions without the changes, making it a much shorter dance. The music for the dance was often adapted from popular songs and stage works.

 

Quadrille

 

 

 

 

by Maria Grace Copyright 2015, all rights reserved

 

9 comments

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    • jennifer redlarczyk on March 31, 2015 at 12:15 pm
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    Maria, I loved all of the dances. I wish I could join in, though it might be as one of the musicians playing off to the side. Great fun. Jen Red

    1. Would love to dance to your playing, Jen!

    • Sheila L. M. on March 31, 2015 at 1:58 pm
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    I cannot imagine being graceful enough to join in one of these. They do look delightful here.

    1. I have two left feet and no sense of rhythm. I’ve been surprised at being able to do any of these at all. It isn’t as difficult as it looks, at least some of them aren’t.

    • Nancy on April 1, 2015 at 10:23 am
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    Lovely, but I think a trifle too sedate. Another segement from a BBC production has the dancers dancing with much more vigor. They seemed to bounce more. These segements are very helpful, though and the dancers are lovely.
    I once visited a Royal Scottish Dancers Meeting and took part in one of the dances. Much more vigorous and engergetic than the dancers above seem to have been,
    Maybe different dances .

    1. Nancy,
      I think you hit the nail on the head. Different Dances. Scottish Reels are know for being far more lively and bouncy than other dances. There is also variation in English Country Dance (which my husband and I do) from dance to dance.

      The videos are taken from a ‘Naopleonic Ball’ which was set to be a very formal occasion. In the period, those types of occasions did not tend to feature the most lively, bouncey dances as they were thought a tad improper for the setting.

      Thanks!

    • Kathy Berlin on April 3, 2015 at 12:36 pm
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    In P & P and a lot of JAFF, we read of these important and even not so important conversations during these types of dances. How in the world? They are so far apart and anything said would be hear by the group. It makes no sense to me. Surely, Jane knew this.

    1. That’s a great question, Kathy. So good in fact that I’m going to tackle it in a post all its own. My husband, son and I have been doing English Country Dancing recently and have attended a couple of balls. So I hope to share some reflections from the ballroom floor.

    • Suzan on April 14, 2015 at 12:40 am
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    I have to say I loved this installment. I truly enjoy dancing but mine is more the polka/waltz type version. I’d love to know how to do this but feel as hopeless as mr. Collins. I tried square dancing a couple times and liked to killed off the rest of the attendees. I think I’d definitely need a private tutor and some moving mannequins.

  1. […]  You can find my first look at Regency Dances here. […]

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