Other Stuff

Shall We Dance?

Photo from the American Antiquarian Society

Tonight’s post is about dance history. It was inspired by this online exhibition by the American Antiquarian Society. I found it through a post made by my friends at Fred Astaire Dance Studios. The exhibition is about the history of social dance in the United States; it includes images of old letters, invitations, dance cards, sheet music, periodicals, and such. It isn’t too long, and you should absolutely look at it.

I particularly enjoyed the section on ballroom etiquette. While some of the specifics have certainly changed over time, etiquette is still very important to ballroom dancers. Personally, I would love a pocket-sized guide to bring to socials; maybe it would help me finally figure out a non-awkward way to ask someone to dance.

Fun side note: there are still schools in existence that teach this kind of old-fashioned etiquette for social events. I went to one every month in elementary and middle school. I had to wear white gloves, navigate a receiving line, and make polite conversation with boys I didn’t know. It wasn’t exactly paradise for a shy adolescent.

Photo from the American Antiquarian Society

Dance has existed in one form or another pretty much forever, and it is one of the few activities that can be a social event, theatrical performance, or athletic competition, depending on the circumstances. I find its rich and diverse history very interesting, and I enjoy the fact that dance touches on so many social, political, cultural, and artistic topics throughout history.Now that I’ve gotten started, I want to write more about ballroom history. Two potential topics I’ve thought up so far are: (1) the origins of my favorite dances and (2) the designs of big, grand, old-fashioned ballrooms in palaces and hotels and such. What else should I consider? I really want suggestions, so please post away in the comments.

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