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|Dancing the Reel
Written by BarbaraB
(4/17/2013 6:11 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Don't agree, penned by Therese
Like you, because I was very curious about this episode of Darcy, Lizzy and dancing a reel, I went looking for more information about this dance as well as, earlier in the week, checking out some video on You Tube.
Here's the thing, the Reel was set up to be danced by no less than three people. It could also be done with 4, 6, and I think I saw somewhere that there could be 8. My impression is that dances for two people were strictly avoided to fit into the confines of Regency society. The first two-person dance seems to have been the waltz which made its way from the Continent somewhere in the teens of the 1800s, and at the time, thought to be scandalous by the English and so took some time before reaching acceptability.
One source describes the Scottish reel as noisy (snapping fingers, uttering a yell known as a heuch, lifting arms above the head) and all that I read say, at the least, it was a very lively dance. Shepard’s annotates it as: "a lively dance, generally associated with Scotland. Reels, like Scottish music, had become very popular at this time. Some have wondered if Darcy's offer is serious, for a reel, like almost all dances of the time, could not be danced by a single couple...." and "Reels, and the music for it, were considered common or popular in character, so people of refined and exacting taste might despise someone who enjoyed them." However Darcy meant it, this is obviously the way Lizzy is taking his 'offer', that he wants an opportunity to question her taste and have reason to despise her for it.
Lizzy actually seems to be speechless at Darcy’s initial ‘offer’ (which is actually asking her does she feel an inclination to dance and does not necessarily translate into a real offer of “will you dance with me?” anyway. She remains silent but not wanting to appear to be rude by ignoring him she gives him a smile. When he repeats it, she says she had heard him the first time but didn’t know what to say finally admitting, “You wanted me, I know, to say 'Yes,' that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all -- and now despise me if you dare."
So this idea of Darcy and Lizzy getting to have this one-on-one romantic, hot dance would have never happened. I hate to disappoint because I was a lot like you when I read P&P for the first time on my own before coming to Pemberley. The first thing I learned, though, when I came to Pemberley is how important it is to read from the viewpoint of Regency society which is who JA’s original readers were and whom she was writing for and how she, herself, lived. There are still many interpretations of the text within the bounds of Jane’s world but anyone is free to interpret outside these parameters if they please and that’s fine but in my opinion, it is a form of rewriting Austen’s work to fit one’s own personal ideals of the characters and it was not easy for me to give this up either because P&P is such a smoldering, passionate story in its own subtle way and its so tempting to go with what teases the imagination in this sense, even when it doesn’t fit into the times. I am nowhere near what I consider to be knowledgeable on Georgian/Regency history and society. But I do work on it and I am always learning new things and, at times, revising and making shifts in my opinions as I learn these new things. This is why I love GRs because I always come away with new perceptions, ideas and possibilities that often simmer and bring about a different way of seeing things even long after the group read is over. Thanks for all your input because it does force me to consider things in a different light regardless of where I eventually land. :)
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