You could see Ivan the Terrible or a “Scot” in full kilt. Many ladies flutter fans. In proper mid-Victorian style, necklines are low and bustles abound. Late-Victorian dress boasts higher collars and tiny wasp waists. All dresses, concealing petticoats, corsets, and chamises, brush the floor as the ladies within them are led onto the dance floor.
One might expect all the faces at the Social Daunce Irregulars Victorian Grand Ball to be the middle-age and over set, but photographs squash that impression with images of a well-dressed pre-teen sweeping his hand grandly as he steps onto the dance floor and young ladies dressed in white and light pink, their hair softly curled, their necklaces delicate, are reminiscent of any proper Jane Austen novel (a bit prior to the Victorian era, but let’s not niggle).
The Social Daunce Irregulars have been hosting balls for more than 20 years. “We are dedicated to keeping the tradition of 19th century ballroom dancing alive in our otherwise gray and pedestrian world.”
Guests will be led by a live orchestra through waltzes, polkas, and dances called “Lancer’s Quadrille,” “Portland Fancy,” and “Virginia Reel” (for example). Dance cards are provided, which is only proper. First timers are encouraged to simply wear something formal so as not to incur too much expense: ladies may wear evening gowns, men white tie and tails. Regulars will be flouting their costumes, ready to share where and how they procurred them.
Here’s a partial listing of what not to wear (italicized sentences are direct quotes from VictorianDance.org):
- Leather soled shoes as they don’t slide across the dance floor, and one must be able to glide.
- Wearing hats, simply wasn’t done back in the day.
- Stiletto heels as they damage the 100-year-old dance floor
- Pistols – not because they don’t want weapons present, but because they fall out of the holsters
- Knives, Scottish Dirks, Skeen Dus (?), or any other sort of blade
- Anything that might snap, slap, stab, gouge, blind, bludgeon, tangle, or trip your fellow dancers on a crowded floor.
In regard to ballroom etiquette page, we read that one is not to dance every dance with the same partner, which back in the day was considered “highly unsociable”; if you choose to sit out a dance when asked then you cannot choose to dance with someone else for that number (“very rude”); and at the conclusion of a dance, take your partner’s arm and return to your original spot, making “pleasant conversation en route, and then give a little bow and say ‘thank you.’” The one modern variant they allow—ladies may ask men to dance.
More do’s and don’ts (italicized sentences are direct quotes from their website):
- Wear gloves
- Bring a handkerchief. Use it, rather than your sleeve, to dab your sweaty brow.
- Do not wear hats in a ballroom. It’s just tacky.
- If you are swept into a partner dance, ALWAYS follow line of direction (counterclockwise) in maneuvering on the dance floor.
- If you have joined a set dance like Quadrille or Contra, you can NEVER leave. It’s like the Army—easy to join, but hard to quit.
- Men, please keep your coats on. Yeah, it’s hot but we would rather see you looking a bit uncomfortable in your tailcoat than (see) your sweat-soaked armpits. I know this is difficult for 21st Century guys who don’t even wear ties to work anymore, but it’s a bit of manly toughness that I highly recommend.
These guys are a hoot.
We could go on and on but, instead, shall force ourselves to conclude and provide details, upon which you can delve further…
Victorian Grand Ball
Saturday, Nov. 30th, 7:30 p.m.-midnight
Pasadena Masonic Hall, 200 S. Euclid
Tickets: $30; mail checks or purchase online here; event often sells out
For more info (very detailed, often humorous), visit VictorianDance.org
Editor’s Note: Dance classes are also offered, though no experience is necessary, but you can jump in the fray, preparing to sweep the dance floor with your 19th Century moves in time for the Social Daunce Irregulars Spring Ball in April.