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Written by BarbaraB
(4/17/2013 1:45 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Already a question is forming..., penned by Jim Morris
I'm a big dance fan myself so I find dance in Austen an interesting aspect in her work too. As you say, dance was a form of socializing out of reach of chaperones and for courtship but Jane Austen cleverly uses it to reveal character and to further plot.
According to Fullerton: "Learning to dance was an important accomplishment for ladies and gentlemen, so was included in any genteel or semi-genteel education. Fashionable schools, such as those attended by the daughters of Mrs. Jennings, stressed that dancing was 'one of the most genteel and polite Accomplishments which a young Lady can Possess'....Dance instruction was thought to teach graceful deportment, to polish manners, and to provide healthy exercise. When Elizabeth tells Lady Catherine de Bourgh that she and her sisters 'had all the masters that were necessary', it can be safely assumed that one would have come to Longbourn....But more than country dancing was taught----a pupil must acquire elegant movements of the arms, the correct general carriage,,,and there was bowing and curtseying, and etiquette of the ballroom to learn as well....The dancing master could well have been shared by other families...Often great houses in a neighbourhood offered local young people shared dance classes....Children's balls were relatively common throughout the Georgian age; they provided a relaxed opportunity for young people to show off what they had learned and get used to the formalities of the ballroom..." I imagine the scene in P&P2 where Lydia grabs some soldiers and some youngsters was an accurate way (the impromptu dance) of getting in some practice.
The Thomas Wilson you mention did put out manuals on dance and apparently they were popular, so they must have worked. I suppose it was better than nothing if you could not afford a dance master and the books were probably used by many country dwellers to just learn new dances as they came out in London? Looking forward to any thoughts you have regarding dance as we progress through the story.
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