Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 7
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I shall speak of this waltze without endeavoring to conceal that the waltze à deux temps is now much more generally adopted, and that it has some particular advantages over its elder brother, which suffice to justify this preference. Still I think we must regret that the old waltze should have so much fallen into disuse. Executed with grace and without affectation, it ought to please, and would form an agreeable relief to its rival. As, besides, it still maintains a place in some ball-rooms, it is essential to understand at least its principles, even though we may rarely have occasion to apply them.

Some years ago I never failed, in teaching, to make the waltze à deux temps precede that of three; but eventually, fashion having decidedly pronounced in favour of the latter, the study of the old waltze came to be considered only as a superfluity, as a curiosity rather than an essential. Those who execute it now, do so for the most part from recollection, and it is seldom indeed that a pupil presents himself in the dancing-academy with any idea of learning the waltze à trois temps. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that it will always be found a useful practice, not only for the waltze itself, but also for other dances requiring that flexibility which the waltze à trois temps is so peculiarly calculated to develope.

It is the custom to say "a waltze à deux, or à trois temps;" but it would, I think, be more correct to say "a waltze à deux, or trois pas." This last phrase, more conformable to what the waltze really is, would have avoided much confusion and misunderstanding. Beyond question, in waltzing it is the steps that we execute, and not the time, that we pretend to mark. Above all, the waltze à deux temps, so often wrongfully accused of being opposed to the rules of time, would have gained by being called the waltze à deux pas. Every one will easily admit that in a movement of a certain extent, we may make as many or as few steps as we please, provided only they are in time. But while regretting that the word, pas, was not originally adopted instead of temps, I have thought it right to adhere to the received phraseology, not liking to take upon myself to reform the mode of speech, but feeling that I ought to be content with wishing a bad phrase might be exchanged for one more correct.

Although I hope to prove in the chapter on the waltze à deux temps that it is in no wise opposed to time, as many have erroneously asserted, I must nevertheless allow that the waltze à trois temps is more in harmony with the movement of the rhythm, and that, no doubt, is an advantage to the eyes and ears of the spectators.

A certain coldness, a slight monotony in the ensemble, and the incessant rotation imposed upon the dancers,—these are the principal disadvantages of the waltze à trois temps, which have contributed to make it in part abandoned. Frequently, too, there is a want of understanding, and, so to speak, a schism between the waltzer and his partner; the lady keeps as far as possible from the gentleman, turns away her head, throws herself back, and seems ready to detach herself from him, all of which can not be without producing an ungraceful and antiquated effect in the midst of the steps of the new waltze. At the same time, to be just, we must observe that the generality of persons waltze à trois temps according to their own notions, and without ever having received the advice of a master. Hence those false, exaggerated attitudes, those thousand contortions, those strides with thwick-thwacks, that date from the empire, or else that whirling round upon the heel, which assimilates certain waltzers to automatons.

I will endeavour to explain once for all the attitude and step of the waltze à trois temps, that it may be judged under its real aspect, whether it is to be abolished entirely, or to be retained, as it now is, for a fourth or fifth dance in the course of the evening.

The gentleman should place himself well opposite to his partner, and hold himself upright without stiffness; his left arm should be rounded with that of the lady, so as to form an easy and graceful arc of a circle.

The gentleman sets out with the left foot; the lady with the right.

The step of the gentleman is made by placing his left foot before his partner. That is for the first movement.

He brings the right foot, slightly crossed, behind the left, the heel raised, and the toes pointed to the ground. That is for the second.

He next pivots upon both feet, rising upon his toes, to recover himself, the right foot foremost, in the third position—Stretches out the [right foot aside, glides the left foot also aside while turning on the right—then brings the right foot forward to the third position. This is for the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

The lady sets out at the same moment as her partner on the fourth step, executes the fifth and sixth, and continues on the first, second, third, and so on.

The preliminary step is made by the gentleman; he places the right foot a little in advance at the first position, lets the second pass, and springs upon the right foot, raising the left leg to meet the third note of the music, and unites the first step of the waltze. This preparation gives the lady the signal for setting out.

With the first six steps we should execute a complete round, and employ two. Formerly it was the custom to count by three equal steps, but this vicious habit has been properly reformed, considering that the three first steps are not made like the three last. The best way is to count by six steps linked to each other, in order to make the pupil thoroughly sensible of the time he ought to mark.

To understand how by means of these six steps a round may be accomplished, I use in my lessons to place the pupil before a wall. I make him describe a demi-round with the three first steps, which leaves him with his back towards the wall, and then execute the other demi-round with the three last.

The three first steps should be equally executed in the first demi-round; but it is not the same with the three last; at the fourth step the gentleman should, without turning, place his feet between those of the lady, accomplish his demi-round in passing before her with his fifth step, and bring up the right foot at the sixth.

I need hardly repeat that for the waltze à trois temps, as well as for the polka and every other dance, of which I shall point out the details, the pupil should study to attain great flexibility and movements as easy and natural as if he walked, and not to keep the neck altogether fixed; but at the same time to avoid elevating or inclining the head, which is only affectation, and never a real grace.

The foot of the lady, as well as that of her partner, should preserve its ordinary position; all turning out, or incurvation, of the instep, can only be injurious to the waltze.

We should neither try to stand upon the toes, nor to remain fixed upon the heels; half the foot alone should bear upon the floor, so as to maintain the utmost firmness possible, without, however, injury to lightness.

It is only in certain cases, and in the execution of difficulties peculiar to the waltze à deux temps, that it is allowable, and then but for the ladies, to quit the ordinary position and rise a little upon the toes, as we shall see hereafter. These, however, are the exceptions, and it may be affirmed that for all the movements of the waltze, the body should never quit its natural position, which assures at the same time the elegance of the exterior and the free performance of the step.

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Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 7

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