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Allemande

Definition of an Allemande -Music:
An allemande (also spelled allemanda, almain, or alman) (from French “German”) is one of the most popular instrumental dance forms in Baroque music, and a standard element of a suite, generally the first or second movement.

Definition of an Allemande – Dance:

A 17th and 18th century court dance developed in France from a German folk dance: a dance step with arms interlaced.

The name ‘country dance’ has nothing to do with country as opposed to town, but comes from the French ‘contre-danse’, describing the way in which the dancers start by standing up facing each other in two long rows, men on one side and girls on the other. The leading couple would then move off down the row, the other couples falling in behind them; there was no fancy footwork involved, but the dancers would weave their way in a variety of patterns across the floor, linking arms or hands with their partners s the figure required – the ‘allemande’figure involved a ‘a great deal of going hand in hand, and passing the hands over heach other’s heads in an elegant manner’. – Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels, Deirdre Le Faye, p. 104.

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Inquiring Readers: This is the second of four posts to Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies, Austenprose’s main event for June/July – or an in-depth reading of Pride and Prejudice. My first post discussed Dressing for the Netherfield Ball. This post discusses the dances and etiquette of balls in Jane Austen’s era. Warning: the film adaptations get many dance details wrong.

Dancers, Rowlandson, 1790's

So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger …” Mrs Bennet about Mr. Bingley at The Netherfield Ball.

The English ballroom and assembly room was the courting field upon which gentlemen and ladies on the marriage mart could finally touch one another and spend some time conversing during their long sets or ogle each other without seeming to be too forward or brash. Dancing was such an important social event during the Georgian and Regency eras that girls and boys practiced complicated dance steps with dancing masters and learned to memorize the rules of ballroom etiquette.

The Five Positions of Dancing, Wilson, 1811

Balls were regarded as social experiences, and gentlemen were tasked to dance with as many ladies as they could. This is one reason why Mr. Darcy’s behavior was considered rude at the Meryton Ball- there were several ladies, as Elizabeth pointed out to him and Colonel Fitzwilliam at Rosings, who had to sit out the dance.

“He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner.”

Mr. Bingley, on the other hand, danced every dance and thus behaved as a gentleman should.

Ladies had to wait passively for a partner to approach them and when they were, they were then obliged to accept the invitation. One reason why Elizabeth was so vexed when Mr. Collins, who had solicited her for the first two dances at the Netherfield Ball, was that she’d intended to reserve them for Mr. Wickham. Had she refused Mr. Collins, she would have been considered not only rude, but she would have forced to sit out the dances for the rest of the evening.

A Broad Hint of Not Meaning to Dance, Gillray, 1804

The only acceptable excuse in refusing a dance was when a lady had already promised the next set to another, or if she had grown tired and was sitting out the dance. Elizabeth could offer neither excuses at the start of the ball, and thus was forced to partner with Mr. Collins.

At a ball, a lady’s dress and deportment were designed to exhibit her best qualities:

As dancing is the accomplishment most calculated to display a fine form, elegant taste, and graceful carriage to advantage, so towards it our regards must be particularly turned: and we shall find that when Beauty in all her power is to be set forth, she cannot choose a more effective exhibition – The Mirror of Graces, 1811

Real Life in London

It was also extremely important for a gentleman to dance well, for such a talent reflected upon his character and abilities. Lizzie’s dances with Mr. Collins were causes of mortification and distress.

Mr. Collins slightly out of step

“Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from him was exstacy.”

A gentleman could not ask a lady to dance if they had not been introduced. This point was well made in Northanger Abbey, when Catherine Morland had to sit out the dances in the Upper Rooms in Bath, for Mrs. Allen and she did not know a single soul. Mrs Allen kept sighing throughout the evening, “I wish you could dance, my dear, — I wish you could get a partner.” Mr. Tilney was introduced by Mr. King, the Master of Ceremonies in the Lower Rooms, to Catherine, who could then dance with him. At Rosings, when Mr. Darcy explained to Lizzie that he danced only four dances at the Meryton Assembly ball because he knew only the ladies in his own party, she scoffed and retorted: “True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room.”

Because a ball was considered a social experience, a couple could (at the most) dance only two sets (each set consisted of two dances), which generally lasted from 20-30 minutes per dance. Thus, a couple in love had an opportunity of spending as much as an hour together for each set.

A gentleman, whether single or married, was expected to approach the ladies who wished to dance. Given the etiquette of the day, Mr. Elton’s refusal to dance with poor Harriet at the Crown Ball in Emma was rude in the extreme, but Mr. Knightley performed his gentlemanly duty by asking that young lady to dance (and winning her heart in the process).

A lively dance at Almack's

Regency dances were extremely lively. The dancers were young, generally from 18-30 years of age, and they did NOT slide or glide sedately, as some recent film adaptations seem to suggest. They performed agile dance steps and exerted themselves in vigorous movements which included hopping, jumping, skipping, and clapping hands.

Depending on the dance formation and steps, a gentleman was allowed to touch a lady and hold her hand (and vice versa, as shown in the example of Mansfield Park 1999 above and in the image below).

Allemande

The couple had many opportunities to converse or catch their breaths when they waited for others to finish working their way down a dance progression.  The ability to carry out a conversation was considered very important, as Lizzie pointedly reminded Mr. Darcy:

“Elizabeth … took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy.—I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

“Very well.—That reply will do for the present.—Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones.—But now we may be silent.”

“Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?”

“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as as possible.”

The dances that would have been danced at the Nethefield Ball were:

The English Country Dance

The characteristic of an English country dance is that of gay simplicity. The steps should be few and easy, and the corresponding motion of the arms and body unaffected, modest , and graceful. – The Mirror of Graces, 1811

Country dances consisted of long lines of dances in which the couples performed figures as they progressed down the line.

When a dancer was too tired to do steps, she would have been considered no longer dancing at all, as with Fanny in Chapter 28 of Mansfield Park:

“Sir Thomas, having seen her walk rather than dance down the shortening set, breathless, and with her hand at her side, gave his orders for her sitting down entirely.”

Rather than everyone starting at once, dances would have called and led off by a single couple at the top; as that couple progressed down the set other couples would begin to dance, then lead off in turn as they reached the top, until all the dancers were moving. Jane Austen occasionally got to lead a dance, as she mentioned in a letter of November 20, 1800, to her sister Cassandra:

“My partners were the two St. Johns, Hooper, Holder, and very prodigious Mr. Mathew, with whom I called the last, and whom I liked the best of my little stock.”

This could lead to very long dances indeed (half an hour to an hour) if there were many couples in a set” – What Did Jane Austen Dance?

The Cotillion


The cotillion was based on the 18th-century French contradanse and was popular through the first two decades of the 19th century. It was performed in a square formation by eight dancers, who performed the figure of the dance alternately with ten changes.

The rapid changes of the cotillion are admirably calculated for the display of elegant gayety, and I hope that their animated evolvements will long continue a favourite accomplishment and amusement with our youthful fair. – The Mirror of Graces

The minuet.

The Devonshire Minuet

This dance had grown almost out of fashion by the time A Lady of Distinction wrote The Mirror of Graces, and it is conjectured that Jane Austen must have danced it in her lifetime.

Boulanger

Boulangers, or circular dances, were performed at the end of the evening, when the couples were tired. Jane Austen danced the boulanger, which she mentioned in a letter to Cassandra in 1796: “We dined at Goodnestone, and in the evening danced two country-dances and the Boulangeries.”

Quadrille

Note: the Quadrille and the waltz would not have been danced at the Netherfield Ball. Jane did mention the quadrille in a letter to Fanny Knight, which was dated 1816. And the waltz would not have been regarded an acceptable dance in 1813. It is doubted that Jane ever waltzed. The reel might have been danced at the Meryton Assembly, or at a private dance given by Colonel Foster and his wife, for instance, but it would probably not have been featured at the Netherfield Ball at the same time as a country dance.

Second Note: The movies have it all wrong. According to the author of this post on Capering and Kickery, “Real Regency Dancers Are Au Courant

Along with the peculiar notion that dance figures from the 17th century are useful for the early 19th century comes the even more peculiar notion that entire dances of that era are appropriate. Regency-era dancers were not interested in doing the dances of their great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, any more than today’s teenagers are. Dances like “Hole in the Wall” and “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot” were written in the late 17th century. Their music is completely inappropriate for the Regency era. Their style is inappropriate. Their steps are inappropriate. There is no sense in which these dances belong in the Regency era. Loving obsessions with these dances make me want to cry at the sheer ignorance being promulgated by the people who keep putting these dances in movies.”

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Emma, Lady Hamilton is best known by the casual history fan for her love affair with Lord Nelson. Born in poverty, she first plied her alluring wares in a brothel before becoming Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh’s mistress. When she became pregnant, he unceremoniously dumped her. But Emma was too stunningly beautiful to live a life of squalor, and the Honorable Charles Greville next picked her to become his mistress. It was through Greville’s connections that she met painter, George Romney, whose obsession with her beauty resulted in a score of memorable paintings. (He continued to paint her portrait even after she left England.)

Emma as Circe, George Romney

Emma loved Charles, but he needed money, so when he met a woman of means in 1786,  he trundled Emma off to his widowed uncle in Naples, Italy, and thus Emma’s association with Sir William Hamilton began. Sir William was a diplomat and an avid art collector of classical statuary, urns and vases, which filled his villa in Portici overlooking the Bay of Naples. A connoisseur, he deeply appreciated Emma’s beauty, intelligence and special talents, not the least among which were her acting skills, hostessing abilities, and aptitude for learning new languages.

Caricature of Emma Hamilton as an artist's model posing in an "Attitude", Thomas Rowlandson

Sir William Hamilton

Emma’s stint as Romney’s model had given her experience posing in various classical guises. She’d also had the dubious distinction earlier in her career in London, of having worked as a scantily clad model and dancer – or “Goddess of Health” –  at Dr. Graham’s Temple of Health and Hymen, which claimed to cure the reproductive and sexual problems of couples. Emma  used her “theatrical” experiences to develop her “Attitudes”.  In helping Emma design her act, Sir William, whose knowledge of the imagery on classical vases was authoritative, used ancient Roman pantomimes as a model. The result of their collaboration was a silent performance that combined poses, classical dance and acting with Emma’s special allure. Emma gave her first showing in spring of 1787 to a group of European guests. Sir William held the lights and introduced his wife, as he would do for all her theatrics.

The Attitudes of Lady Hamilton, 1791, Novelli

The poses were an immediate hit. Emma moved through her routine within a tall black box surrounded by a gold picture frame, using only a shawl or urn for a prop. (Although she must have occasionally used a child, as included in these images.) For her “Attitudes”, Emma  wore simple white-draped garments that fitted loosely and allowed her long hair to flow free. Her dresses were modeled on those worn by peasant women in the Bay of Naples. Sitting, standing, leaning, or kneeling, or posing as Medea or Cleopatra, she seemed to step right off the antique vases that her husband collected.

Portland Vase, British Museum, once owned by Sir William Hamilton

Emma’s repertoire was large and made up of at least 200 poses. During a performance she moved from one silent tableau to the other with great rapidity, delicacy. and deliberateness in what one writer termed ‘bursts of stillness.’ The private and select audiences would attempt to guess the names of the classical characters and scenes from stage and literature that she pantomimed, and stare in awe at Emma’s ability to transform her moods and the scene in an instant. Out of necessity, earlier viewings remained private, for Sir William and Emma were not married.

The couple did eventually marry  in London in 1791 at St. George’s Church in Hanover Square. Sir William was 61 and his wife was 26. After their wedding, the Hamiltons returned to their home in Italy. They continued to perform the “Attitudes, but now they could publicly and conspicuously invite a much larger and more diverse audience. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German poet, had been invited to watch a performance during a visit to Naples. Impressed, he wrote:

The Chevalier Hamilton so long resident here as English Ambassador, so long too connoisseur and student of Art and Nature, has found their counterpart and acme with exquisite delight in a lovely girl, English, and some twenty years of age. She is exceedingly beautiful and finely built. She wears a Greek garb becoming her to perfection. She then merely loosens her locks takes a pair of shawls, and effects changes of postures, moods, gestures, mien, and appearance that make one really feel as if one were in some dream. Here is visible complete and bodied forth in movements of surprising variety, all that so many artists have sought in vain to fix and render. Successively standing, kneeling, seated, reclining, grave, sad, sportive, teasing, abandoned, penitent, alluring, threatening, agonised. One follows the other and grows out of it. She knows how to choose and shift the simple folds of her single kerchief for every expression, and to adjust it into a hundred kinds of headgear. Her elderly knight holds the torches for her performance, and is absorbed in his soul’s desire.

Lady Emma Hamilton as the Goddess of Health, 1790, Cosway

There must have been something titillating and erotic about Emma’s act, for her poses, although inspired by classical motifs, also drew upon her earlier experiences as a “Goddess of Health” in London and her erotic performances dancing naked for Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh’s friends on his dining table. Her fame spread far and wide, and Emma, Lady Hamilton’s “Attitudes” became a big draw on Europe’s Grand Tour. Painters and writers sought out her performances, which charmed aristocrats and royals as much as artists and the literary set.  Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun observed:

“Nothing was more curious than the faculty that Lady Hamilton had acquired of suddenly imparting to all her features the expression of sorrow or joy, and of posing in a wonderful manner in order to represent different characters. Her eyes alight with animation, her hair strewn about her, she displayed to you a delicious bacchanale, then all at once her face expressed sadness, and you saw an admirable repentant Magdalene.” – Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun

Lady Emma Hamilton, 1794, Rehberg

The black and white Rehberg illustrations featured in this post and commisioned by Sir William,  are drawn with simple, graceful and classical lines and freeze a particular “Attitude”. Their idealistic poses are among the few visual reminders that remain of Emma, Lady Hamilton as a performance artist. As the images show, Emma was a voluptuous, well-formed and beautiful woman. Her love for food and drink was no secret, and she would gain a substantial amount of weight over time, until at 47 she was described as being fat. But for a number of magical years, art, performance and beauty combined to create a series of tableaus that are still remembered today for their freshness and originality.

Emma Hamilton, 1794, Friedrich Rehberg, engraver and Tommaso Piroli, illustrator

Read about Lady Hamilton’s later years and sad death in this link.

To learn more about Emma’s fascinating skills, watch a lecture by John Wilton-Ely. His talk is on the ” performances by Lady Emma Hamilton, one of the most celebrated beauties of her era and a remarkable pioneer in developing performance art.”  Click here to watch the lecture. (A little over an hour long but well worth the time.)

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christineInquiring readers, Several weeks ago, Chris asked me to link to her blog. Looking at it and reading her posts, I asked her to keep me updated on her work, which she describes as a personal journey that she is doing “for the pleasure of pursuing a course of study in a structured manner, which I greatly miss from my time in graduate programs. And to have fun and explore, more deeply, the work of a writer I admire and the time period in which she lived.” Below are her thoughts, and a link to her blog, Embarking on a Course of Study, which I encourage you to visit.

Would you, if you could, spend a year entering ‘on a course of serious study’ as Marianne Dashwood vows to do at the end of Sense and Sensibility? If the answer is yes, please join me in an Austen-inspired project of that nature. Specifically, “A writer, reader, and Austen lover spends a year (or more) embarking on a course of study similar to that probably undertaken by Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, without the benefit of Colonel Brandon’s library and with room for diversions, digressions, and (hopefully) fun fieldwork.”

I’ve begun by rereading the novels (which has been both a joy and a frustration at times, and I’m sorry I waited so long to pick them up again!), and Austen’s letters. I’m contacting Austen scholars for reading suggestions and to interview them. So far the Chawton Library has been the most helpful. Sadly, JASNA, not so much.

I have my first interview with a professor at St. Mary’s College here in Maryland, who is offering a class on Austen that examines the important aspects of the time period in which they were written: poliltics, economy, social codes, etc.

I admit the fieldwork so far has been the most fun. I’ve been country dancing (a real thrill, but surprisingly hard to learn and hot/sweaty!), am working on a silk ribbon embroidery project, and am deciding between hat decorating and archery classes. I have the Jane Austen Cookbook, as well, and plan on cooking one or two items for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve promised my family not to make pigeon, which I admit I was not sorry to give up.

The reading list is growing and my goal is to alternate the serious with the silly. So – Mrs. Richardson then Sir Walter Scott, and on like that.

I hope to attend the festival in Bath next fall, so will probably need to find a seamstress to make me something fabulous or brave the process myself. Let’s see how well I do with the silk ribbon embroidery first!

This is not a project in the vein of a PhD dissertation or an intellectual discussion, though I welcome ideas, comments, and suggestions of all kinds. I’m trying to stay as true to Marianne as I can, but also see where this path leads me, personally.

Based on my post a few weeks ago (‘The Ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute’), that could be to a class in NYC on walking in heels at ‘Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls.’

You just never know where we’ll end up!

My latest post is on Elinor vs. Marianne. Who would you rather have as a friend? Who are you most like? Would love to hear from you.

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Jane Austen Sequels, written by Jane Odiwe, has recently been featuring a series of posts on Regency Brighton, including Brighton Encampments, Donkey Riding and Sea Bathing in Brighton, Stopping for Refreshment (on a coach from London to Brighton), and Brighton Entertainments. Jane also paints lovely watercolors and sells her images, cards, and books, such as her recently published Lydia Bennet’s Journal, on Austen Effusions. Jane has begun a third blog, which will discuss all things Austen and the Regency world. I become quite dizzy when I think of all her activities!

Image of Refreshments at a Coaching Inn from Jane Austen Sequels

Michelle Ann Young from Regency Ramble has just completed a series of posts on Bath. Michelle Ann frequently describes the flora and fauna of the era, and fashions of the season. She is also promoting her most recent novel, No Regrets.

Visit Jane Austen Addict.com to read Laurie Viera Rigler’s posts about PBS Masterpiece Classic’s The Complete Jane Austen series. Laurie, author of The Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, described a JASNA ball she attended in 2004. This photo shows her with her own Mr. Darcy, and looking beautiful in her red regency gown. Such fun! Also, don’t miss her posts about Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice. In addition, she oversees a forum on her website, and is writing a sequel to her best-selling novel. My, my, Laurie, you have been busy!

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Many country towns had a monthly ball throughout the winter, in some of which the same apartment served for dancing and tea-room. Dinner parties more frequently ended with an extempore dance on the carpet, to the music of a harpsichord in the house, or a fiddle from the village. This was always supposed to be for the entertainment of the young people, but many, who had little pretension to youth, were very ready to join in it. There can be no doubt that Jane herself enjoyed dancing, for she attributes this taste to her favourite heroines; in most of her works, a ball or a private dance is mentioned, and made of importance.

Many things connected with the ball-rooms of those days have now passed into oblivion. The barbarous law which confined the lady to one partner throughout the evening must indeed have been abolished before Jane went to balls. It must be observed, however, that this custom was in one respect advantageous to the gentleman, inasmuch as it rendered his duties more practicable. He was bound to call upon his partner the next morning, and it must have been convenient to have only one lady for whom he was obliged

To gallop all the country over,
The last night’s partner to behold,
And humbly hope she caught no cold.

From the Memoirs of Jane Austen by J. Edward Austen-Leigh, p 34

This is Mrs. Bennett’s account to Mr. Bennett of the local Assembly Room ball when Jane met Mr. Bingley:

“Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that, my dear, he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So he inquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger–‘”

In a personal account, Jane writes of a ball she attended in 1799,

“We were very well entertained, and could have stayed longer, but for the arrival of my list shoes to convey me home, and I did not like to keep them waiting in the cold. The room was tolerable full, and the ball opened by Miss Glyn. The Miss Lances had partners, Captain Dauvergne’s friend appeared in regimentals, Caroline Maitland had an officer to flirt with, and Mr. John Harrison was deputed by Captain Smith, himself being absent, to ask me to dance. Everything went well, you see, especially after we had tucked Mrs. Lance’s neckerchief in behind, and fastened it with a pin.”

Chandelier, Assembly Room, Bath

Click here to read more about dancing on this blog

Also click on this link to learn about the dances in Becoming Jane. The post is quite thorough and detailed.

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A new Assembly Room and Hotel in the Mall (now the Clifton Club) was opened in 1811. This “spacious and elegant” building contained “a noble reception saloon and tea room, with convenient lobbies, a billiard room etc” and “every accommodation for both families and individuals, even to sets of apartments/drawing rooms, a coffee room, a shop for pastry and confectionery, with an adjoining room for soups, fruits and ices; hot, cold and vapour baths”. In all, the hotel had 70 bedrooms and 20 sitting rooms. (For the fascinating story of its architect see History – Clifton’s Famous and Infamous No. 1 on this website.) The man behind the development was John Lewis Auriol, a wealthy Huguenot, and it is his coat of arms that appears on the pediment.

The Assembly Rooms with its ballroom soon became the focal point for social life of Clifton society. Local artist Rolinda Sharples has captured for all time the atmosphere of a ball in the Rooms in about 1820.

From Clifton at Play


Self portrait of painter Rolinda Sharples with her mother

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