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

Elizabeth Aldrich, Author Northwestern University Press $0 (225p) ISBN 978-0-8101-0912-4
``Dancing and etiquette are inseparable,'' wrote one 19th-century dancing master quoted in this scholarly glimpse into ballrooms past. Newly moneyed Americans of that era craved guidance on how to comport themselves, and publishers responded with scores of manuals on etiquette, fashion and dance instruction. As dance historian Aldrich demonstrates through more than 100 excerpts from these guides, balls and dance offer a key to understanding the social aspirations of the period. These volumes gave unflinching advice, from injunctions against nose-picking to the proper way to lead a partner through the quadrilles. In a brief historical essay, Aldrich dissolves the veneer of naivete from these admonitions, placing them in the context of a society in which woman's role had become centered on domestic affairs and in which the ballroom was the showcase for one's social accomplishments. But while Aldrich supplies quotations at length, her attenuated analysis of these mores and of the dances themselves--from the initially notorious waltz to the ``German,'' whose figures offered a strange representation of relations between the sexes--fails to illuminate their underlying ethos. Illustrated. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 225 pages - 978-0-8101-0913-1
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