Dance Etiquette of Days Gone By
This is actual language from old etiquette manuals. Though it is somewhat amusing to read these old-fashioned rules of behavior, the underlying principle of dance floor etiquette remains the same:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
A gentleman should refrain from smoking, spitting, fighting, or using colorful language on the dance floor or any other location in the presence of ladies. Recollect, the desire of imparting pleasure, especially to the ladies, is one of the essential qualifications of a gentleman.
A lady or gentleman should finish their toilet before entering the room for dancing, as it is indecorous in either to be drawing on their gloves, or brushing their hair. Finish your toilet in the dressing rooms. Ladies beware of trains. If you must wear them, have a wrist loop. You will, however, find life to be better if you do without trains.
White kid gloves should be worn at a ball, and only be taken off at supper-time.
When entering a private ball or party, the visitor should invariably bow to the company. No well-bred person would omit this courtesy in entering a drawing-room; although the entrance to a large assembly may be unnoticed. Always recognize the lady or gentleman, or the director of ceremonies with becoming politeness: a salute or bow is sufficient.
Dance with grace and modesty, neither affect to make a parade of your knowledge; refrain from great leaps and ridiculous jumps, which would attract the attention of all towards you.
A lady should not attend a public ball without an escort, nor should she promenade the ball room alone; in fact, no lady should be left unattended.
A gentleman will never approach a lady to whom he has not been properly introduced. A gentlemen may ask a lady's escort or any male member of her family for an introduction. Any such request for an introduction may be refused. A gentleman should accept such refusal gracefully.
A lady will never engage herself with a gentleman to whom she has not been properly introduced.
A gentleman will not take a vacant seat next to a lady who is a stranger to him. If she is an acquaintance, he may do so with her permission.
Any presentation to a lady in a public ball-room, for the mere purpose of dancing, does not entitle you to claim her acquaintance afterwards; therefore, should you meet her, at most you may lift your hat; but even that is better avoided - unless, indeed, she first bow - as neither she nor her friends can know who or what you are.
A lady cannot refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she has already accepted that of another, for she would be guilty of an incivility which might occasion trouble; she would, moreover, seem to show contempt for him whom she refused, and would expose herself to receive in secret an ill compliment from the mistress of the house.
Never wait until the signal is given to take a partner, for nothing is more impolite than to invite a lady hastily, and when the dancers are already in their places; it can be allowed only when the set is incomplete.
The master of the house should see that all the ladies dance; he should take notice, particularly of those who seem to serve as drapery to the walls of the ball-room, (or wall-flowers, as the familiar expression is,) and should see that they are invited to dance. But he must do this wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies.
In giving the hand for ladies chain or any other figures, those dancing should wear a smile, and accompany it with a polite inclination of the head, in the manner of a salutation. At the end of the dance, the gentleman re-conducts the lady to her place, bows and thanks her for the honor which she has conferred. She also bows in silence, smiling with a gracious air.
A lady will not cross a ball-room unattended.
Married or young ladies, cannot leave a ball-room or any other party, alone. The former should be accompanied by one or two other married ladies, and the latter by their mother, or by a lady to represent her.
There is a custom which is sometimes practiced both in the assembly room and at private parties, which cannot be too strongly reprehended; we allude to the habit of ridicule and ungenerous criticism of those who are ungraceful or otherwise obnoxious to censure, which is indulged in by the thoughtless, particularly among the dancers. Of its gross impropriety and vulgarity we need hardly express an opinion; but there is such an utter disregard for the feelings of others implied in this kind of negative censorship, that we cannot forbear to warn our young readers to avoid it.