Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 10
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SEQUEL TO THE ADVICE TO WALTZERS À DEUX TEMPS.

I have spoken of the step of the waltze à deux temps , of the different modes it allows, of the conduct of the lady, of every thing that can be considered as an elementary part of it; I have now to advise waltzers to attend with the utmost care to their carriage, a point no less essential than all the rest, and which the master can not neglect without the greatest injury to his pupils. It is in vain, I should say to the dancers, that you can execute the step with facility—in vain that you can perform the most difficult evolutions; if at the same time your neck is not at a distance from the shoulders, if your arm is distorted, your back bent, and your legs stiff, you need never aspire to the title of good waltzers.

It was believed for a time, and above all at the epoch when the waltze à deux temps came first into fashion, that it required a peculiar sort of affectation in the carriage. Many imagined that no one could be cited as a fashionable waltzer without some sort of mannerism, either in fully extending the arm to the lady at the risk of blinding the nearest couple, or in rounding the elbow like a handle, or in flinging back the head in a sort of frenzy, or, in a word, by affecting some singularity of attitude. Good taste, however, has done good justice to all these affectations, which did real injury to the waltze, which was for a long time considered to be mad, or eccentric, while nothing in the world can be more easy or natural. As for me, I never cease recommending to my pupils simplicity and nature in their waltzing; I do not even allow that the lady's wrist should be kept elevated, the fingers hanging without those of the gentlemen, according to the mode that some have attempted to establish. The best way is to hold the lady quite simply by the hand, and to conduct her with as little effort as if leading her in a promenade. The drawing-room waltze should be never considered as a forced exercise, and still less as an affair of parade; nor can we too closely approach to that graceful ease which people of fashion evince in all their actions. Whoever in waltzing perverts his usual habits, or takes a manner, an attitude, or even a look of command, may reckon before-hand that he waltzes with pretension,—that is to say, badly. Nevertheless while offering my advice to the gentlemen, I cannot forbear addressing myself at the same time to the ladies, who should also take to themselves whatever I have said in relation to ease of movement and simplicity of attitude. It would be doubtless superfluous to insist with them on the necessity of maintaining a graceful and natural attitude.

I have already, when speaking of the polka, recommended the ladies to allow themselves to be directed by their partner, to trust entirely to him without in any case endeavouring to follow their own impulses; and this advice is particularly applicable to the waltze à deux temps. The lady, who in the middle of the ball, should herself seek to avoid the other couples, would run the risk of thwarting the plans of her partner, who alone can assure her safety in the midst of people crossing and jostling in every direction. In the same way when the lady desires to rest, she should warn her partner and not stop mid-way of herself. It is to him only belongs the choice of a place where he may place her in safety.

The gentleman should be careful not to let go of his partner 'till he perceives she is completely still. The rotatory motion, even after the stop, is often so vivid, that he would risk seeing her lose her equilibrium, if he detached himself in the midst of a round.

In speaking of the ladies' waltzing, may I be permitted to hazard a counsel, and which besides is the opinion of the greater part of my pupils. Good waltzers are scarce now-a-days amongst the gentlemen, but it must also be observed, at the risk of being charged with want of gallantry, that their number is equally limited among the ladies. One may well be surprised at this, considering all those natural qualities of grace and lightness, which make the generality of dances so easy to them.

It has been too generally imagined that the study of the waltze is almost unnecessary for the ladies, that their part consisting only in suffering themselves to be directed, they have only to follow the impulse given to them without any need of preliminary knowledge. Beyond doubt the gentleman's part is the most arduous, and to all appearance has more of care and detail, since he must do at the same time himself and for his partner; but to affirm that the lady's part is altogether negative, and not to perceive that she also has much art and a peculiar skill to acquire, is an error against which I cannot too strongly protest. A bad waltzer is certainly a real scourge for the ladies, and it may be easily conceived that they seek to guard against it; but it must also be allowed that a bad valseuse—and we cannot deny that they too may be found—is scarcely a less inconvenience. Not only does her want of skill injure herself, but it wears, and even paralyzes her partner, who with all his skill cannot supply her total want of practice. A gentleman, who finds he has to direct a lady altogether inexperienced, is reduced to the lamentable necessity of employing force, which infallibly destroys all harmony and all grace; he no longer waltzes; he raises, he supports, he drags along.

Ladies, who imagine that a few essays made in private, and under the too indulged auspices of friends and parents, will enable them to appear with success before the world, too often deceive themselves; and when I say that the counsels of a master are always useful, if not absolutely indispensable, I hope I shall not be accused of thinking in a narrow professional spirit when I have nothing in view but the delights and advance of the art of waltzing.

It is a master only, who by virtue of his office may venture to point out to a lady the real execution of the step, and the attitude she should maintain. Is it in the midst of a ball, when the gentleman is on the point of starting, that he can take upon himself to tell the lady that her step is imperfect, her hand badly placed, that she leans heavily on her partner, and throws herself too much backward, and so many other details, which, from want of being pointed out at first, engender defect that may be considered as irremediable? In fact, a gentleman may scrupulously correct himself, he may hear the truth from his friends, but a lady is much more frequently flattered than admonished. It is a master only who will undertake the painful, but necessary, task of censure, or at least, he will point out those indispensable principles, which are the fruit of observation, and which all the intelligence in the world is unable to supply. For the rest, and without seeking in any wise to palliate the extreme rigour of my advice, I ought to add, that the few lessons, which seem to me requisite for the valseuse, have nothing very alarming in them. Their education is much more quickly accomplished than that of the waltzer. I have seen the greater part of the ladies, who have trusted themselves to my tuition, in a state to figure at a ball after a very few lessons, especially if they have had to do with a skilful partner. In fact, we may easily conceive that much less is necessary to be done for the carriage of the ladies, who are naturally graceful and elegant; it is only the first indications that are required to be inculcated on them; their peculiar aptitude for every kind of dance soon outstrips the lessons of the master.

I cannot terminate these general remarks—which might be infinitely extended, so many are the shades and details in the teaching and practice of the waltze à deux temps —without reminding the professors that in regulating the step and attitudes of their pupils they should endeavour to preserve the characteristics of each, and should take care that while the waltzers appear elegant and fashionable in their movements, they still remain themselves.

I have remarked—and no doubt others have done the same—that there are almost as many sorts of waltzers, as there are kinds of dances. One is distinguished by his impetuosity, his fire; his attitude without being exactly disordered has not all the prescribed regularity; but he makes amends for these defects by the inappreciable qualities of warmth and vigour. Another waltzes calmly and without the least agitation; if he does not carry away his partner, in requital he impresses upon her a motion calm and sweet, that may be compared to a rocking, and which although a merit opposite to the dancer of fire and spirit, does not the less constitute one of the qualities of a good dancer.

It sometimes happens that without exactly springing, certain waltzers seem at every step to slightly leave the ground by means of a kind of continued rising, which is not without grace, and above all facilitates the execution of the valse course.

The master must be careful not to attempt reforming any of those peculiarities which are often the result in each individual of constitution and nature. Fortunately one may be an equally good waltzer with the most opposite qualities, and the questions of self-love and rivalry amongst them reduce themselves to nothing.

That such a waltzer is preferred to such an one in the world is not at all surprising; it often happens not because the one is superior to the other, but simply because his step is more in harmony with that of such or such a lady. The varieties that exist amongst the waltzers reproduce themselves amongst the valseuses.

These dissimilitudes or affections constitute one of the great charms of the waltze à deux temps. The expert dancer has the prospect of finding a new waltze almost at every fresh invitation. Uniformity exists only for novices or the unskilful.


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Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 10

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