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.
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.
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.
by Maria Grace Copyright 2015, all rights reserved