Hoping for Colonel Fitzwilliam, Hiding from Mr. Collins

The first quadrille at Almack's, 1808.

The first quadrille at Almack’s, 1808.

I discovered some earth-shattering, or at least sand-rippling, news yesterday. My sweet, somewhat-weird-in-the-cool-artistic-sense little Victorian town has a group of English Country Dancers. That holds classes regularly and that I can join without going bankrupt!

Oh, be still my swooning slippers!!!

It feels like I have been dancing for just about ever. My grandfather owned the first soft-serve ice cream machine in the state. From the time I could walk, he’d lift me onto the counter at the soda fountain, fire up the jukebox, and I would dance for the customers. They, in turn would buy me ice cream. The customers loved it, grandpa made extra sales, and I got an early peek into the unimaginable fortunes to be had as a dancer.

Dancing was a natural joy and I kept it up: tap, ballet, jazz, modern, on stage, on camera…nothing big, but fun when you’re a kid. As an adult I kept on going: international folk dancing, Hula kahiko, Hula ‘auana, and Western swing. And if I had about 40% more muscle tone I’d happily tackle Beyoncé right this minute. (You know what I mean.)

But, back to the important stuff.

So now I can get back into dancing and learn a lot of culture and history at the same time. That’s my kind of multi-tasking. I really do want to make it to the JASNA AGM this fall in Montréal, Québec. And it would be fabulous to dance and not just watch.

Besides, Pride and Prejudice taught us all a lesson about dancing and what it leads to. (Or, for the English majors, “that to which it leads.”)

darcy-and-elizabeth-at-ballEver since Colin Firth, poor fellow, nailed the All-Round-Best-Ever-Regency-Attired-Gentleman-in-a-Wet-and-Nearly-Transparent-Linen-Shirt Award, I’ve been interested in English Country Dance. You see, first Mr. Darcy danced. Pride_and_Prejudice_Colin_Firth_Wet_ShirtThen, before you could say “Please pass the treacle, Lydia”, there he was in a see-through shirt. That’s about as direct as logical progression gets, no? (And it provides irrefutable proof regarding the value of paying attention to the story line because you never know when real-life tips like this will turn up.)

So this coming Sunday afternoon, for the meager entry fee of $5 and a potluck dish, I will take my first steps into the world of Regency-era dance in the form of a two-hour lesson that covers six new-to-me dances. I remember reading, somewhere in a Regency manual or letter of the time, that a dance set can last as long as thirty minutes and either you can dance or you cannot – meaning there’s no sitting one out because you have to catch your breath.

I just hope there is a Regency-era defibrillator and oxygen tank nearby.

"The Dying Patient, or The Doctor's Last Fee" by Rowlandson.

“The Dying Patient, or The Doctor’s Last Fee” by Rowlandson.