Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just Dance

Queue the music. Dancing is something humans have done since we could walk upright and beat a rhythm on a tree trunk. It is something people will do regardless of social class or skill. In the great history of dance, the 18th century is far from being omitted as a time period that wasn't big on boogieing down. After all, balls were always a big deal and, if you were in the upper classes, your grace at dancing was a major aspect of how you were judged in multiple areas! Marie Antoinette and Harriet Ponsonby were both known to be exceptional dancers and were also noted for having graceful mannerisms and airs. Of course, when you couldn't dance you could light up the room with some artwork portraying the pastime.

David Wilkie, The Penny Wedding, 1818

David Allan, The Highland Dance, 1780

Johann Georg Weickert, Marie Antoinette and Family Dancing, 1765

Johann Zoffany, The Minuet, ca. 1780-83

William Hogarth, The Dance from The Happy Marriage, 1745

From Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing instruction manual, 1811


  1. So prim and proper by Regency days!

  2. I just love the dance styles that were popular during the classical era and ancien regime. 'The Minuet' is my favorite painting of the bunch.

  3. O come on, the Regency picture is an illustration of the five positions of ballet, and apparently, ordinary dancing too. It does not show people dancing, so you cannot really compare it to the other pictures. it's very interesting, though.

  4. You're right Ingrid, I am being unfair. Especially since that wasn't a fine art piece like the others. But I was looking at regency prints of dances and they did seem so much more sterile! But you are still absolutely right!

  5. I just received a Spanish auction catalogue that has a marvellous example that could be used in this post.

    Maybe the coincidence is a sign for me to have it...

  6. I found a very juicy 1805 print - a caricature showing Joséphine Bonaparte and Thérèse Tallien dancing naked.


    It doesn't show real dancing practices of course, but it's neither prim, proper, nor sterile.

  7. LOL @Ingrid! That usurper, Napoleon - my loyalty's with the ancien regime! - must've been thrilled (not).

  8. I have the last image on a tshirt that I bought from Republic of Pemberley, and it never fails to prompt comments when I wear it.

    I thought the dancing master in Bright Star was pretty interesting--first time, as far as I know, that this important personage in the education of young ladies and gentlemen has been portrayed.

  9. Yes, I just saw this film so I know what you are talking about. I love how dancing instructors are always portrayed in movies! Yes, you couldn't be considered refined without a French or Italian dancing instructor!