Regency Dances

Regency Dances

The other day I read some information about Regency dancing. Some of it was rather fascinating. I love the names of some of the dances. And there is a bit more to it than I realized: etiquette, dress, 40 million different dances, and practical considerations such as men leaving their swords at the door. hehehe

I had wondered about part of the dress because in a couple of P&P variations I read that Darcy wore boots to dance in. My thoughts were no, no, no. Almack’s was one that had strict rules about boots. Wear boots and you would not be admitted. Boots marred the floors and hurt the toes of young women. And, I imagine, that they were hard to dance in as well. That’s why the men wore dance slippers: lighter weight, easier movement, and less damage to any toes that were accidentally stepped on. Almack’s also barred canes for the same reasons: floor and toes.

I also had read that the women apparently wore bonnets on occasions. Of course, when the turbans were in fashion, there were probably quite a few that indulged in them. But I gather that the men were always bare headed.

Dresses would be fashionable for the area where the balls or assemblies took place and be from the simple to the fancy and after a time, very low decolletages. However, I can see that being a hazard with a very vigorous dance. But I don’t recall reading about any accidents.

One had better adhere to the rules of whatever establishment was attended because violation of them could cause fines or dismissal. Evidently, they took their rules very seriously.

In Pride and Prejudice, Sir William Lucas served as Master of Ceremonies and had certain duties as such and complete control of the ballroom or assembly room. These would include introductions, instructing of the musicians, maintaining order, and determining the selection of dances. With some balls, there might be a hostess with these responsibilities or a caller of the dances.

The names of the dances are surprising, and I wonder how some of them came about.

A Fig for Bonaparte

Astley’s Hornpipe

Bloom of the Pea

Boil’d Goose with Snuff Sauce

Chatsworth House

Haunch of Venison

Long Live the Prince Regent

Make a Bustle

Strawberries and Cream

And here is Strawberries and Cream.

There are probably several hundred dances in the list that I looked at though I’m not sure they were all around the Regency time period. How on earth could a person learn that many dances? Hopefully, there were certain ones that were common so a man or a young lady would know at least a few of them.

I do miss dancing and wonder if I really would have liked the type of dancing back then. I think I would, especially the first dance featured in Pride and Prejudice 2005. That looked like great fun. 🙂

18 Responses to Regency Dances

  1. Regency dances look like so much fun. I’ve participated in some of them at Williamsburg. They’re complicated, but once you get the hang of them, they’re great entertainment. While times change, people don’t, so it’s not surprising that younger people of any time want new, exciting, and interesting things that are their own.

    • Yes, the livelier dances do look like fun, Leeza. And I gathered they are a bit complicated as I looked at the different moves. Thank you for your comments, and I agree that people seem to want their own stuff. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this, you made some interesting points I hadn’t thought about. I had not thought about what type of footwear men wore at the dances and the repercussions of if they wore heavier boots.

    • Appreciate your comment, Chelsea. Until I did the research, I did not know there were rules against wearing boots. It was reasonable to me that they were not the footwear to utilize when one wanted to be light on their feet on a ballroom floor. However, I was surprised that canes were included in the ban. I wonder what an older or injured guest would do when they actually needed a cane. Not attend? Be allowed to sit on the side? Not sure if I’ll find an answer to that. ???

  3. I didn’t know there were so many different dances and such unusual names!lol It would be fun to learn one!

  4. I had no idea that there were so many different types of dances and had never heard of any of the ones mentioned. I need to look up Strawberries and Cream as I can’t imagine what that might entail.

  5. I’ve been doing ECD for a few years now and can fill in a bit… It isn’t necessary to learn a hundred dances when you have a caller because there’s a limited number of figures in ECD and this caller is announcing them. There’s kind of a steep learning curve going in, but once you know a certain number of figures you just follow the caller.

    Hollywood ECD (and the one I do) is not authentic, or at least, not typical. We see these stately slow dances in which everyone in the room starts at once and they tend to be two-couple sets. Most of the country dances of the Regency were three-sets, and teens and twentysomethings are not known for stately behavior! Theirs would have (mostly) been rather faster, reels and the like. Also the whole room did not start dancing at once. The couple at the top would dance and progress (change places in the line of dancers) to the next set of couples, and so on down the line. So if you’re at what they term the bottom of the room, you would end up standing there for 10, 15 minutes or more as the dance works down the room. So, if you were unfamiliar with a dance, you could use this time to watch the higher couples and learn how to do it. But given that this was one of the few chances you could talk to someone of the opposite sex without a chaperone, you might do that instead; also, the second and third couples’ part in the dance was less involved, and therefore, afforded more chances to chat. If you’ve noticed that the ballroom etiquette often prohibitions against something like ‘a grand rush for positions,’ that’s part of what’s going on.

    As far as odd dance names goes, the maggots bear mentioning. There are a large number of dances named maggots (Mr. Beverege’s Maggot), which apparently meant ‘favorite’ or ‘fancy.’ I did some digging into this and it seems to be derived from the idea that silliness was the result of maggots in the brain.

    • Thank you for the info, Summer. I was trying to remember the Maggots and couldn’t find them. The dances definitely gave couples an opportunity to become better acquainted. And I appreciate you bringing out that only a few moves (comparatively) needed to be learned and the caller would call the dance and let the dancers know which moves to make. That would definitely make the dancing much easier. Also explained the need for a caller. 🙂

  6. An let’s not forget the strange stuff from the 70s! Not sure if some of the dances had names, but… sheesh.

  7. You should try it. There are English Country Dance groups everywhere. Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot (P&P dance) is always popular and easy to learn. I belong to a group that has Balls and Assemblies. It is fun to get dressed up in Regency era garb and experience the dances as JA would have.

    • I may take you up on that, Suzanne. The dances do look like fun. Even the more sedate ones. I’ll check and see what the Dallas area has. And I love the name Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot. The names all but had me rolling in the floor especially the Boil’d Goose with Snuff Sauce. Where did that one come from? 🙂

  8. My pleasure, Jeanne. And ‘thank you’ for the dances of the 60’s. That was a fun memory lane for me, and I laughed too. 🙂

  9. Dancing is universal… every savage… well… you know. Attending a dance was a big deal back then. Church, assemblies and balls were the way to get out of the house and meet people. This could give young people the chance to be together in a crowd. That list of dance names reminded me of the names of dances during the 60s: The Twist, Mashed Potato, Funky Chicken, Jerk, Swim, and of course the Watusi. I had to laugh. I remember our elders were aghast at some of the dances and it was no different in the Regency era with the introduction of the Waltz. I have been a chaperone at high school proms and I can tell you… I could give some of those Regency biddies a run for their money. I have seen a lot… let me tell you… and some of it was not pretty. snicker… times change but actions and behaviors never do. Thanks for this walk down memory lane.

    • Think of the exercise! I should do it just for that! I certainly can’t floss. ?

      Wonderful post, Gianna, lots of great information!

      • Than you, Nicole. I’m delighted you enjoyed it. And I’m looking forward to finishing ‘Nefarious.’ I’ve been on pins and needles since you quit posting. 🙂

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