Proper Round Dancing Styling and Etiquette (in 1879)
by John Brant
In 1879 C.T. De Witt published a book titled: Cartier
and Baron's practical illustrated waltz instructor, ball room guide, and call
book. Giving ample directions for dancing every kind of square and round dances,
together with cotillons--including the newest and most popular figures of "the
This is what the book said about styling.
The gentleman prior to engaging in the dance, places himself in front of his
partner, a little to her right, encircles her waist with his right arm,
supporting her firmly, yet gently, and holds her right hand with his left,
extending it nearly to the height of his waist, slightly bent at the
The lady's left hand should rest lightly upon her partner's left shoulder,
while the right arm should be extended nearly straight with the palm of her hand
turned downward. The gentleman then places the inner side of the fingers of his
left hand against the inner side of the fingers of the lady's right
The gentleman being at all times responsible for the guidance of his partner
he should, therefore, use the greatest precaution against colliding with other
couples. He should regulate the proper distance to be maintained between himself
and his partner, neither holding her so close as to impede her freedom of
action, nor stand too far aloof, which would prevent his rendering her
sufficient support. The lady should allow herself to be entirely guided by her
partner, without in any case endeavoring to follow her own impulses.
In all the round dances, the lady commences with the right foot and the
gentleman with the left. Both dancers should turn their heads slightly to the
left, overlooking one another's shoulders.
This is what the book said about etiquette:
At a private party a gentleman may offer to dance with a lady without an
introduction; at balls the rule is different, and a gentleman should be
introduced either by the floor manager or the lady's escort. This introduction
is for the mere purpose of dancing, and does not entitle you to claim her
acquaintance afterwards. A lady who declines dancing with a gentleman should
afford him some reason. Never wait until the signal is given to take a partner,
for nothing is more impolite than to invite a lady hastily, and when the dancers
are already in place, this can be allowed only when the sets are
Gentlemen should dance the first set with the ladies under their escort.
Among persons not previously acquainted, the acquaintance ends with the dance;
and if a gentleman desires to dance a second time with the same lady, he must be
presented again; and unless the lady indicates otherwise, he has no claim to her
recognition at any subsequent time or place.
The proper head of the ball room is generally opposite or furthest from the
main entrance. Many suppose it to be nearest the orchestra; this is an error,
for the orchestra is sometimes on the side, or over the entrance of large ball
rooms, but the head is never at either of these places. When the entrance is on
a side of the room, custom determines which end, to the right or left of it, is
the head. At private houses there is no established rule for determining the
head. It may be near the front windows or at the opposite end, at the option of
the master of ceremonies.
Never attempt to stand up in a Cotillion
without knowing something of the figure. Do not kick or caper about nor sway
your body to and fro: lead your lady gently, only by the fingers, not to grasp
her hand. It is a breach of etiquette, when dancing, to leave one set to join
another, except when the change is occasioned by mistakes as to the
pre-occupancy of place. Rather than dispute as to the pre-occupancy of place. it
is better to withdraw from the set.
During the dance, all should be exclusively devoted to their partners, and
never allow themselves to keep up by conversation or the telegraph of the eye
and face, a communication with others. Even those persons who are familiar with
all the formalities of fashionable society, are often the worst offenders
against the common decencies of life.
It is very impolite and insulting in either lady or gentleman, while dancing
in a quadrille, to mar the pleasure of others by galloping around or inside of
the next set.
A lady should never engage herself more than for the following set, unless
by the consent of the gentleman who accompanies her.
Modern Round Dancing is certainly more complex in structure today. There are over 700 moves
on the list of moves. However, the rules of engagement, etiquette wise, were
certainly more complicated than today in the nineteenth century.
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with the stipulation that credit be given to the contributing author/publisher.