Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 10
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CAN you remember the days when you draped a lace curtain over your little curly head and tried to look like a bride? Or the time you put on your mother's hat and earrings and tried to decide whether or not you were as lovely as the calendar lady who smiled at you from the wall? If you do, you will agree with me, I am sure, that the desire to be “as pretty as the princess in the fairy tale” is born in the heart of every girl child,

Certain it is that those busy people who like to “estimate” things declare that women spend in America alone about fifty million dollars a year on beauty aids. The beauty parlor is the one place that no number of financial panics and no amount of changing fashions can put out of business. Women insist upon being beautiful, and if Nature fails them they try to cultivate beauty.

A clever woman Mr. Castle and I know has summed up the evils of a Woman's life in the declaration that, “One gray hair is a tragedy, fifteen extra pounds is heartbreak, and a double chin is the end of life's illusions.” So we dye the gray hair, diet away the fifteen pounds, and tie up our chins till only one grows where two grew before.

Every night and every morning, with the faith and hope of religious zealots, thousands of women bob up and down, and squat and rise, and bow and bend and wiggle their heads, and rub their necks, and go through all the rites of the liturgy of beauty—that is, if they don't dance. The woman who dances does not need other beauty aids; beauty will seek her. That is not a theory, but a fact; for when a woman is dancing she is happily unconscious, and therefore easily carrying out all the exercises taught by beauty experts.

The woman who is beginning to show flabby lines in her throat is told to hold her head up steadily, to stretch her neck back, and move her head from side to side till she strengthens the muscles. When she dances she holds her head up, holds it up in the graceful fashion that she would never accomplish if she were trying it as an exercise. She moves her head from side to side as she takes the various steps and the double chin goes; she actually dances it away.

Then there is the fat that clings to so many women when they reach that turning of the years which faces life's sunset. They are set at all kinds of exercise for this, and are pounded and pummeled in massage till they are sore, but dancing will take the fat off as quickly and much more pleasantly.

At a thé dansant women eat and drink, but instead of sitting idly about afterward, and letting nourishment go to fat, they are dancing, encouraging digestion, lithe muscles, and an easy carriage. It would be hard to find a diversion that helps a girl more than dancing. It teaches her rhythm; it keeps her in tune with life; it gives her a graceful swinging walk; it shows her how to hold her head, and how to use her hands, and, what is more, how to use her feet. Many women are awkward in their ways of moving and standing. Dancing, too, naturally encourages sluggish blood to run more freely. It brings color into sallow cheeks and makes dull eyes bright.

But, as in all things, one must know when to stop. One should not continue to dance after becoming very tired. Don't attract hard little lines to your face by striving to keep up when unaccustomed muscles rebel. It takes a long time to develop the muscular strength that will enable you to keep going indefinitely; and getting overtired, whether through work or pleasure, is a blow against beauty from which it will take you a long time to recover.

The muscles of the legs, thighs, back, and arms are all more or less exercised when dancing, and the necessity of holding the body erect is good for the other muscles and nerves When you have grown used to holding yourself in proper position to dance you will unconsciously begin to hold yourself in proper position at all times.

Keeping time to the music as you step the pretty measures of the Hesitation or Innovation will make you breathe in time—the deep breaths which come when the mind is beating time and the body is following it; every deep breath drawn is a fresh aid to the beauty we all want so much.

The thé dansant and the diner dansant have, too, solved for us the way to follow the directions to stand up twenty minutes after eating without that deadly feeling of weary boredom that used to assail us. How we watched the clock and wished the twenty minutes would pass, or else that our shoes were a little larger and our clothes a little looser!

Any physician will tell you that health is the only real beauty, and health really does mean prettiness. It means rosy cheeks, clear eyes, an animated expression, not to speak of a zest for life that has a magnetism all its own. It is health that dancing gives to us, provided we live sane lives in other ways. Good food, plus enough sleep, plus an occasional brisk walk, an alcohol rub, and dancing—of such are happiness and beauty made.

The graceful dipping in the slow Waltz and the Lame Duck is physically and hygienically a great boon to the beauty-seeker. It prevents flat feet and fallen arches and brings into play tissues that otherwise would never be exercised. Round shoulders disappear, stiff muscles grow limber, and, most of all, this dancing stimulates both men and women to a great extent, and actually has, according to several great physicians, cut down the consumption of liquor. Men and women who used to loiter in cafes, drinking and chatting, during the afternoons are now dancing and drinking only a cup of tea. Young men are dancing instead of loafing in clubs and drinking, and the girls are learning wisdom about the deadly cocktail, so that every dip and walk and glide and lock-step is really a soldier in a great army of health and beauty.

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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 10

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