Dance Etiquette – 1921
Dancing is an art. More than that, it is a healthful art. In its graceful movements, cadenced rhythms, and expressive charms are evident the same beautiful emotions that are so eloquently expressed in music, sculpture, painting. And it is through these expressions of emotion, through this silent poetry of the body that dancing becomes a healthful art, for it imparts to the body–and mind–a poise and strength without which no one can be quite happy.
It is because the vital importance of dancing on the Mind and body has been universally recognized, that it has been added to the curriculum of public schools in almost every country. We find the youngsters revelling in folk-dances, and entering dancing games with a spirit that gives vigor to their bodies, balance and grace to their movements.
Consider, for a moment, the irresistible witchery of music, of rhythmic cadences. We hear the martial note of the drum, and unconsciously our feet beat time. We hear the first deep chords of the orchestra, and involuntarily our fingers mark the time of the measure. With the soft, mellow harmony of triplet melodies we are transported to the solemn vastness of a mountain beside a, gayly rippling stream. With the deep, sonorous bursts of triumphant melody, we are transported to the ocean’s edge, where the rumbling of the waves holds us in awed ecstasy. Thoughts of sorrow, of gladness, of joy, of hope surge through us and cry for expression. Dancing is nature’s way of expressing these emotions. Then let us dance, for in dancing we find poise and strength and balance. Let us dance for in dancing we find joy, pleasure, hope. It is the language of the feelings, and nature meant it for the expression of those feelings.
It is only when dancing is confined to hot, crowded rooms where the atmosphere is unwholesome, that it loses its healthful influence on mind and body. But where there is plenty of room and fresh air, plenty of good, soul-inspiring music–we say dance, young and old alike, dance for the keen pleasure and joy of the dance itself, and for the health that follows in its wake!
Dancing has been revolutionized since the day when the German waltz was first introduced to polite society. And it is safe to say that some of our austere granddames would feel righteously indignant if they were suddenly brought back to the ballroom and forced to witness some of the modern dance innovations!
There seems to be an attempt, on the part of the younger generation (although the older generation is not so very far behind!) to achieve absolute freedom of movement, to go through the dance with a certain unrestrained impulsiveness unknown to the minuet or graceful quadrille. These newer dances and dancing interpretations are charming and entertaining; and yet there is the possibility of their becoming vulgar if proper dancing positions are not taken. The position is especially important in the latest dances.
In guiding a lady across the polished floor to the tune of a simple waltz or a gay fox-trot, the gentleman encircles her waist half way with his right arm, laying the palm of his hand lightly just above the waist line. With his left hand, he holds her right at arm’s length in the position most comfortable for both of them, taking special care not to hold it in an awkward or ungainly position. His face is always turned slightly to the left, while hers usually faces front or slightly to the right. The girl should place her left arm on her partner’s right arm. She must follow him and not try to lead the dance herself.
When the dance requires certain swaying movements, as almost all modern dances do, the lady inclines her body in harmony with that of her partner, and if the proper care is taken to retain one’s poise and dignity, not even a most exacting chaperon can find fault with the new steps.
Henry Ford promoted Square Dancing in the 1920’s to counter what he perceived to be the vulgar dances being embraced by the younger generation.Â Square dancing has survived to the current day, with dancers world-wide participating in weekly dances. A typical square dancing club is Adelaide Outlaws in Adelaide, South Australia. There is bound to be a club near you if you are interested in joining.