Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 7
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VII
GRACE AND ETIQUETTE

Grace of manner, grace of mind,
If for these we strive we'll find
Grace of every other kind.

SO runs the old nursery rhyme. Like most of these doggerels of our youth, there is a very real lesson underneath the jingle. Grace of manner and grace of mind must be the forerunners of all kinds of grace, and most certainly must lie back of the grace of dancing. Skill in stepping intricate measures and a wide knowledge of many dances do not make either a man or a woman graceful on the floor: there must be besides knowledge of the dance, knowledge of etiquette, of life's little courtesies and life's gentle thoughts. The vulgarity of a dance lies always as much in the mind of the dancer as in the steps, and a suggestive dance is inevitably the outcome of an evil thought, or a lack of knowledge of the finer and better way to dance.

Etiquette means not merely conventional rules, but rules of courtesy as well, and these should be scrupulously followed when dancing as well as under all other circumstances. The rules of etiquette are as strict for women as for men, and it is not necessary to be stiff and formal in order to follow them.

Both good manners and good dancing require a man to stand far enough from his partner to allow freedom of movement; he should not hug or clutch her during the dance. His arms should encircle her lightly, and he should barely rest his hand against her back, touching her only with his finger-tips and wrist.

So much has already been said about the vulgarity of the Bunny Hug that nothing need be added here except that many men attempt this sort of “strangle hold” when they are dancing. It is not only wrong from the standpoint of the dancing-teacher, but it is unpleasant for the lady and draws much adverse criticism from onlookers. Moreover, grace of movement is impossible under such circumstances. The two partners should dance in unison, lightly and easily, keeping together by perfection of step and perfect time rather than by the clutch of the man upon the lady's hand.

All this is no more etiquette than it is dancing, no more grace of manners than grace of body or mind, but it marks the difference between the good dancer and the poor one, between the gentleman and the roisterer.

In the modern dances the dancer stands with lithe grace and ease, but very erect, and dances with her feet, not with her whole body. Her outstretched fingers rest against the palm of her partner's hand; her other hand rests on his arm, and there should be space between. Then the lady should hold herself erect, that this space may remain there. Flouncing elbows, pumping arms, fantastic dips, and whirlwind turns all detract not only from the grace of the dance, but from the charm of the dancer.

A dip is hardly more than bending the knee. It does not mean an exposure of silk stocking, or should not, if the dancing-costume is properly cut; and it should not be done in a romping spirit. Remember that you are dancing, not doing acrobatic exercises; and your partner is there to dance with, not to hang yourself on in grotesque attitudes and poses to music.


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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 7

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