Friday, November 28, 2014

The Regency waltz


One of the things I wanted to do in the published version of "A Constant Love" is fix the waltz.

When I was researching the story, I did a fair amount of reading on balls and assemblies, and how the waltz had become an accepted dance in town. What I hadn't really realized, though, is how very different it is from the modern-day or even Victorian waltz. When I finally came across a depiction of the Regency waltz, it was too late to work in without causing confusion, so I left it for the initially published version.

The Regency waltz was in four distinct parts -- the Marche, Pirouette, Sauteuse, and Jetté, and it was positively racy for the time. Like, I am in perpetual shock that they danced their cotillions and quadrilles and then did this. It would have only been slightly less shocking if the master of ceremonies had announced, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, you shall be entertained by the musical stylings of one Mr. Jay-Z." But these were strange times, that period of time when the war was ending and the Prince Regent was leading the way in debauchery, before the Victorian era ushered in a whopping dose of prudishness, and so it seems this version of the dance could only live in that late Regency era.

This site describes it best, but what also fascinates me about the Regency version of the waltz is that it seems to be lost to time. We have descriptions of it, but in all the Regency dances and movies out there, no one has attempted this actual dance. I think it would take a certain amount of historical study just to figure out how it might have been done. There are waltzes with other dances or modern interpretations of the waltz done to them, but not this version of it. The closest thing I could find was one couple at one dance doing possibly the Pirouette during portions of it (make like Lydia Bennet and look for the gent in the red coat):



Austen never includes it in her work, so I think it unlikely we should see it in any movie adaptations, but even these are a often a little behind the times (as much as I love them). The highly popular "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot" really would have been a dance for a previous generation, and even then gets slowed down. I suspect it would have left the real Lydia Bennets of the world exclaiming: "Lord! Play something we can DANCE to!"


So I've decided to include the Regency version of the waltz, even if it is a bit of a mystery to me. I did have to make some interesting decisions regarding the waltz, though. Typically a lady would dance one set of two dances each with a gentleman, and if she danced two sets with him, that was a sign of some amount of attachment. Three sets wasn't done.

Yet ACL has multiple instances of ladies dancing a third time with a gentleman, with what is basically the fifth dance being a waltz. Everything I've read about it indicates it is special, and requires special approval from the lady's chaperone, and I can't see that approval being given unless the lady has danced at least one set with him already, or he is somehow otherwise known to their party. Particularly the racy Regency version of the dance; parents and guardians would not want a young lady dancing in this way with just anyone. So I decided on those grounds that it would be okay to have that additional third pairing, and that the waltz almost didn't "count," although it did in showing an even greater degree of supposed attachment.

Mr. Collins, Mr. Darcy, mansplaining, and empathy

I'm a guest at Austenesque Reviews today, talking about these very things !