Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 11
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XI
GIVING A THÉ DANSANT

ENGLISH history relates how Sir Christopher Hatton danced so beautifully at a certain bal masque of the English Court that even good Queen Bess was charmed by his performance and, taking him into royal favor, made him a Knight of the Garter. I believe she also gave him much power and a high position among her advisers. So even in those sixteenth-century days dancing was an art that ranked high. Now we are equally enthusiastic over it. The modern hostess who wishes to be popular and to attract the guests she likes best must introduce dancing into her entertaining.

The old stupid afternoon teas are things of the past. The long receiving line, the heavy array of food, and the endless, manless hours of gossip are no more. We have the tea with dancing, at which there are usually as many men as women and which has about it a festive air of enjoyment that the old tea never had.

Planning and arranging a thé dansant is not difficult for the woman who knows how, but if you are not a skilled hostess in this respect perhaps the few suggestions I can give you may help.

In the first place, do not have your dance-floor too slippery; it is not necessary, and it is difficult to dance on. If you haven't a hard-wood floor, a temporary flooring of linoleum is really the best.

Do not ask more people than can dance with comfort. If your room is small have the tables or the buffet in a room adjoining. Space in dancing is absolutely essential.

One clever hostess we know, whose teas are among the most popular of the season, has a buffet tea, with sandwiches, cakes, tea, and chocolate, arranged in the dining-room, while tête-a-tête tables with cups, saucers, and plates are scattered all through the down-stairs rooms in cozy nooks and windows. The guests may take their tea in solitude à deux or about the big table in the dining-room, as they prefer.

This does away with the question of just when to serve tea, for some like to watch the dancers for a little while and sip their chocolate before they begin to dance themselves, while others like to plunge at once into the dance and eat only when they are too tired to dip and glide any more.

Heavy foodstuffs like fried oysters, creamed chicken, patties, and such things are not needed at such a tea. Delicate sandwiches of different kinds, a light salad, rolls, and tea, coffee, and chocolate should be supplied, together with the inevitable ice-cream and cakes. A bowl of lemonade or punch should be placed in the dancing-room, for dancing is thirsty work, and often warm work if the hostess is not wise enough to keep her dancing-room full of fresh air, really cold air, till her guests arrive.

Instead of the old-time receiving line the modem hostess asks some of the girls or young matrons to assist her at the dance, and upon these devolves the duty of seeing that other girls are not wallflowers, and that even stout matrons have partners. Also, that there is some one to introduce the shy man to the shy girl, and see that they have tea and cakes. All these little duties are necessary at the thé dansant, and they cannot all be performed by the hostess.

At the larger and more fashionable of the teas it is now customary to have a pair of professionals to dance if tea is to be served to every one at once. This gives the guests a chance to watch the dancing while they eat, and even where no professionals are to be seen the hostess often asks some especially clever young couple to do a dance for the other guests to break the endless round of One Step, Hesitation, and Tango.

The chance to do these special dances is really eagerly sought nowadays, for women and men alike take a pride in attaining perfection that spurs them on to lesson after lesson, and is fast resulting in an array of society maids and men who dance fully as well as the paid professional. I must suggest, too, that the hostess arrange with some couple among her guests to start the dancing. Sometimes at a tea, especially a small one, ladies will hesitate to be the first on the floor. In some instances fully half of the dance is wasted. But if the hostess has a daughter or a lady friend who will start out with the first bars of the music, the other guests will quickly follow her example.

In arranging the dances the hostess should also remember that the majority of people dance the One Step; that the Hesitation Waltz and its variations are almost equally popular; but that the Tango—the Argentine Tango—is not generally known or danced, and therefore no more than one or two of these should be introduced in the afternoon's progress.

This also applies to the diner dansant, which is, as it were, a Tango tea in the evening. It differs from the formal dinner dance in many respects, first because the guests often dance before and after the dinner and sometimes between courses, and also because it is entirely informal. It is a popular practice among a great many people, especially in London, to have the dinner served at small tables, with music between courses, the man eating the course with whatever partner he dances with. This makes a sort of progressive dinner that is very cozy and delightful, and does away with the deadly weariness of the man and woman who must sit beside each other at dinner with nothing in common to interest them. It averts all possibility of placing enemies side by side for a long meal, and it saves the hostess from the effort of keeping the ball of conversation going about a large table.

The tables for the diner dansant should be, of course, all in one room; but if the room isn't large enough to dance in the dancing may be done in an adjoining room, where the musicians may be stationed. There are a hundred variations of the thé dansant and the diner dansant. They are the most popular form of entertainment at present, and the wise hostess who wishes to entertain cannot do better than arrange one or the other as a means of pleasing her friends.


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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 11

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