Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Introduction et al

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Elisabeth Marbury










I. Dancing as an Art

II. The Tango of To-day

III. The One Step—The Castle Walk—The Eight Step—The Spin—The Step Out—The More Difficult Step Out—The One Step Cortez —The Outer Edge—Zig Zag—The Polka Skip—The Wind-up

IV. The Hesitation Waltz—The Waltz Walk— The Lame Duck

V. The Tango Argentine—The Cortez—The Promenade —The Media Luna—The Scissors

VI. The Tango Brésilienne, Or Maxixe— The Two Step—Les à-Côte—The Skating Step

VII. Grace and Etiquette

VIII. Proper Dancing-costumes for Women

IX. Modern Dances as Fashion Reformers

X. Dancing as a Beautifier

XI. Giving a Thé Dansant

XII. Proper Dance Music

XIII. The Dances of the Past

XIV. Dancing and Health

XV. Castle House Suggestions


Acknowledgment is made to Otis F. Wood, New York City, for assistance in the preparation of this book.

The moving pictures reproduced in this book to illustrate the various dances were taken under the personal direction of Watterson R. Rothacker, General Manager, the Industrial Moving Picture Company, Chicago, Illinois.

The frontispiece and the illustrations on pages 30, 36, 122, 145, 151, 157, and 161 are from copyrighted photographs by the Moffett Studio, Chicago, and are reproduced here by special permission.

The illustrations on pages 53, 95, 103, 105, and 117 are from copyrighted photographs by Gustave Dietz, New York City, and are reproduced here by special permission.

The illustrations on pages 42, 48, 60, 62, 67, 70, 73, 82, 90, 97, 98, 106, 113, 115, 118, 121, 131, 132, and 138 were specially posed for this book by Ira L. Hill's Studio, New York City.


WE feel that this book will serve a double purpose. In the first place, it aims to explain in a clear and simple manner the fundamentals of modern dancing. In the second place, it shows that dancing, properly executed, is neither vulgar nor immodest, but, on the contrary, the personification of refinement, grace, and modesty.

Our aim is to uplift dancing, purify it, and place it before the public in its proper light. When this has been done, we feel convinced that no objection can possibly be urged against it on the grounds of impropriety, but rather that social reformers will join with the medical profession in the view that dancing is not only a rejuvenator of good health and spirits, but a means of preserving youth, prolonging life, and acquiring grace, elegance, and beauty.

Irene and Vernon Castle



IN a recent address by the poet Jean Richepin before the members of the French Academy the evolution of modern dances was convincingly traced from the tombs of Thebes, from Orient to Occident, and down through ancient Rome. M. Richepin protested against the vulgarization of these dances when performed by inartistic and ignorant exponents, but argued that centers should promptly be established in every capital of the world where the grace and beauty and classic rhythm to which the modern dance so naturally lends itself should be developed and emphasized.

With this aim in view Castle House in New York was started, and the services of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle were secured by me to conduct and superintend the dancing there. Mr. and Mrs. Castle stand pre-eminent to-day as the best exponents of modern dancing. In Europe as well as in America it has been universally conceded that as teachers they are unequaled. Refinement is the keynote of their method; under their direction Castle House became the model school of modern dancing, and through its influence the spirit of beauty and of art is allied to the legitimate physical need of healthy exercise and of honest enjoyment.

The One Step as taught at Castle House eliminates all hoppings, all contortions of the body, all flouncing of the elbows, all twisting of the arms, and, above everything else, all fantastic dips. This One Step bears no relation or resemblance to the once popular Turkey Trot, Bunny Hug, or Grizzly Bear. In it is introduced the sliding and poetical Castle Walk. The Hesitation Waltz is a charming and stately glide, measured and modest.

The much-misunderstood Tango becomes an evolution of the eighteenth-century Minuet. There is in it no strenuous clasping of partners, no hideous gyrations of the limbs, no abnormal twistings, no vicious angles. Mr. Castle affirms that when the Tango degenerates into an acrobatic display or into salacious suggestion it is the fault of the dancers and not of the dance. The Castle Tango is courtly and artistic, and this is the only Tango taught by the Castle House instructors.

As for the Maxixe, it is a development of the most attractive kind of folk-dancing. Both Mr. and Mrs. Castle have made a specialty of the Maxixe as an exquisite expression of joyousness and of youthful spontaneity.

The Half and Half is an original drawing-room dance invented by Mr. Castle. It combines the best steps of the Hesitation and the Maxixe, but the tempo is entirely new.

In this book Mr. Castle has explained in detail and with the aid of some excellent photographs, exactly how to dance these modern dances, and so clearly and simply that any one reading the text can follow their explanations, and by attention and practice learn to dance with ease and grace.

We have here, then, the authoritative book on dancing, written by the foremost exponents in America, the inventors of the famous and popular Castle Walk.

Perhaps in view of the wide-spread criticism of some of the modern dances I may be permitted to add a word concerning dancing itself.

If we bar dancing from the world we bar one of the supreme human expressions of happiness and exultation. The tiny child skips for joy and prances to the music of the hand-organ long before it knows the difference between happiness and sorrow. In time of festival in many countries dancing is the keynote of the gathering.

The attempt to start a moral campaign against all modem dancing is destructive rather than constructive, unless we offer something better in its place, unless we go forward to newer dances—that appeal to the moral sense as well as to the eye.

All work and no play dulls both Jack and Jill. If young working men and women dance, they fling off morbid introspection; they become alert, alive, full of the zest of life. For the moment they forget the gray and sordid influences, thanks to the buoyancy of our American temperament; therefore I say that the best course in the interest of morals is to encourage dancing as a healthful exercise and as a fitting recreation.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me very improbable that the majority of boys and girls who go to public dances are guilty of harboring and of fostering the thoughts that are imputed to them by those who proclaim against dancing. I believe that only a small number of them dance vulgar steps, some perhaps impulsively, but chiefly because they do not know any better. They want to dance; they want pleasure and excitement, and they take it as it comes to them, the bad with the good. It is our duty to eliminate the bad and encourage the good.

Surely there cannot be as great moral danger in dancing as there is in sitting huddled close in the darkness of a sensational moving-picture show or in following with feverish interest the suggestive sex-problem dramas. Nor from my point of view is there as much harm in dancing as in sitting home in some dreary little hall bedroom, beneath the flaring gas, reading with avidity the latest erotic novel or the story which paints vice in alluring colors under the guise of describing life as it really is.

The Maxixe and the Tango are only two of the so-called modern dances. The Innovation, introduced at a ball recently given by Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, is in my opinion more graceful, as it is a dance where the partners need not even touch hands in certain of its steps. In the One Step the man must hold his partner loosely if he does the pretty measure where he steps to one side of her as they dip; and in the Hesitation Waltz the steps require that the man and the woman be slightly apart. The Turkey Trot was a dance which deserved much of the abuse it received; but it died a natural death, because more attractive dances were offered in its place. So will the objectionable features of all modern dances be thrust aside as the statelier and more graceful steps are danced.

I believe dancing to be a useful as well as a beautiful art, and I think that the women of every city should open properly conducted dancing-halls for young people where they can dance to good music under refined supervision.

Give them clean fun to offset the hard work of the day. Give them exercise for tired muscles; give them instructors to teach them, without charge, the correct positions and the correct steps for the popular dances, and every girl and boy you teach in this fashion will teach their friends, until by constructive elimination we have done away with what is vulgar by giving our young people something better.

We are planning now to have classes for girls who work, under the direction of vulunteer teachers from Castle House, and I feel that it is a venture whose success is assured, and one which will be copied by men and women of leisure all over the country. It is easy to make the young happy and easy to rob them of joy. It is our privilege, as experienced, responsible guardians, to put within their reach every means of innocent amusement. Otherwise they will fill the void in their lives by amusements of a more questionable character.

The child of the tenement would be delighted if put into a beautiful, clean, and airy play-room; so will be the men and women of all ages when we show them how to dance the modem dances gracefully and modestly. I may be a very gullible person, but I have talked to hundreds of girls about their dancing, and they have put into my hand the golden key to the situation by saying with a puzzled smile and questioning eye: “We're dancing wrong? Well, maybe; but we don't know any other way to dance. Do you?”

We do, and we can teach them. That is really the situation in a nutshell. They must dance. The lure of the rhythm, the sense of flinging aside the weariness of the working-day, is as strong in the heart of the girl behind the counter as in that of the girl in the private ball-room. The man who labors in the humbler callings is as interested in his girl friend and as anxious to dance with her as the young man in what we call “society.” And what is more, I do not and will not believe that all those young persons, the fathers and mothers of to-morrow, who are working and striving to earn honest livings and to rise in the world connect their moments of recreation with suggestive ideas and unworthy ideals.

To them dancing means a stretching of the mental muscles as well as those which are physical. It means something different from the dull daily round; it is almost as natural as the desire for food and sleep. The forbidding of the modern dances in public centers is dangerous. It sets that alluring sign “Forbidden fruit” upon what otherwise would arouse no prurient curiosity. We are told that the new dances encourage too much freedom, and, while “all right if properly danced,” are all wrong in a public dancing-room. These would-be reformers never see that they are tacitly admitting that it is ignorance of the dances, not knowledge of them, that does the harm.

It is not difficult to find the explanation of some of the undesirable dancing. A working man and girl go to a musical comedy. From their stuffy seats high up under the roof they look down upon the dancers on the stage. These are—so the program tells them—doing modem ball-room dancing. The man on the stage flings his partner about with Apache wildness; she clutches him around the neck and is swung off her feet. They spin swiftly or undulate slowly across the stage, and the program calls it a “Tango.” The man and girl go away and talk of those “ball-room dances.” They try the steps; they are novel and often difficult; they have aroused their interest. The result is that we find scores of young people dancing under the name of “One Step” or “Tango” the eccentric dances thus exaggerated and elaborated to excite the jaded audiences of a roof-garden or a music-hall.

There is no one to tell those young people that they are mistaken in their choice of the steps, that “society” does not do those dances. They hear hundreds of men and women denouncing the scandalous modern dances, and in their ignorance think that these are the only dances.

Let us, therefore, have dance-halls that are properly run, with instructors to teach the new dances, with a good floor and good music and a welcome for every one.

Let us have places of amusement where the fathers and mothers and even the little ones can come with the young people, and where they can look on and enjoy the healthy relaxation of their children.

Let the dance-halls become decent social centers where families can gather in sympathy and in understanding. There teach that it is better to dance correctly than to undulate round and round in a narrow circle and in a close embrace, misnaming this a Hesitation Waltz.

The One Step, the Hesitation, the Lame Duck, the Innovation, the Half and Half—all the new dances, in fact—have enough pretty steps to delight the hearts of girls and boys who want to show off. They are easy enough for even the awkward girl to learn, and they are good exercise and clean exercise for every boy.

I am delighted to find that the public schools are taking up dancing, and I believe that if every woman's club would give a free dance for the young people of the neighborhood once a week, with an instructor and a chaperon present, that they would do more good to the race than by discussing eugenics or by indulging in a flippant study of social economics.

Dancing is first and foremost a healthful exercise; it is pleasure; and it is an art that brings to the front courtesy, ease of manner, grace of body, and happiness of mind. It is for us to set this standard.

Many prominent citizens and some of our clergy have recently denounced modern dancing, believing in all sincerity that certain vulgar dances which they have witnessed are the models upon which general dancing must be based. Unfortunately, this is a ease of the innocent suffering for the guilty, and it is our business and pleasure to prove that any sweeping condemnation of dancing as a pastime is not founded upon fact and that many have erred through ignorance rather than through intent. Let us, therefore, co-operate with our guardians of civic decency and aid them constructively in the elimination of the coarse, the uncouth, the vulgar, and the vicious. Let us establish once and for all a standard of modern dancing which will demonstrate that These dances can be made graceful, artistic, charming, and, above all,

Elisabeth Marbury

NEW YORK, March, 1914.

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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Introduction et al

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