Saturday, 20 April 2013

Regency Snippets - Waltz

"At Almack's, as elsewherein London, the day had passed when in the ball-room the minuet and other stately movements were fashionable;and during the early years of the Regency the dances in vogue were the English country dances,Scotch jigs and Highland reels, the last, introduced into London, it is said, by Jane, Duchess Gordon, and performed by her to the accompaniment of an orchestra from Edinburgh conducted by Niel Gow, the composer of  "Bonnie Prince Charlie". It was the introduction of a new dance that shook, not only Almacks, but all England to its foundations. In 1815 Lady Jersey and Count Aldegonde, Lady Harriet Butler and Mr Montgomery, Lady Susan Ryde and Mr Montagu, and Miss Montgomery and Mr Charles Standish (or some authorities say MrHaytey) danced the first set of quadrilles, which presented by such sponsors, at once became fashionable. The quadrilles evoked much interest, but this was nothing compared with the sensation that had been caused two years earlier by the introduction from abroad of the waltz.

Some such dance it appears, had been known in England nearly a score of years before, for in The Times of February 19, 1796, we read: "The balls at Southampton are exceedingly lively and well-attended. The young ladies are particularly favourable to a German dance, called the Volse: for squeezing, hugging, etc., it is excellent, and more than one Lady has actually fainted in the middle of it. The "Volse", however,had not penetrated to the metropolis, or at least to the fashionable circles thereof; and when in 1813 it was danced at Almack's for the first time - it was then in a slow movement in trow temps - by Madame de Lieven and "Cupid" Palmerston, and Princess Esterhazy and Baron de Neumann, it divided society into two camps:those who welcomed it with open arms, and those who resented the introduction of what appeared to them as a most indecorous proceeding. Lmpoon after lampoon was provoked by the new dance, and more than one of these has come down to posterity."

Lewis Saul Benjamin (1908)  The Beaux of the Regency