- Historical Dance
- Jazz Age Social Dancing ("The Modern Dances")
- Ragtime Dance - the One Step
- Regency Dance
- "Mr Nelson's System of Simplified Regency Dance"
- An Analysis of Country Dancing - 1808
- Cotillions and Country Dances 1792
- Elements of the Art of Dancing - 1822
- The Complete System of English Country Dancing - 1815
- The Scholar's Companion - Cotillions and Country Dances - 1796
- Thos Wilson's Quadrille Instructor - Ca 1816
- Thos. Wilson's Description of Regency Waltzing - 1816
- Treasures of Terpsichore - 1816
- Victorian Dance
1. Styling, Carriage and Deportment
This is, in combination with the steps, is the key to making "Regency Dance" Regency. Every dance form has an attitude. If you dance the Tango, you should do so with a fundamentally different attitude that you would use for the Jitterbug. Tango with a Jitterbug attitude is, well, not a Tango.
Having said that, I would observe that the essential nature of the Regency Country Dance is lively, spirited and energetic. While graceful, it is not the rather sedate and staid sort of dance that one often gets when walking through the figures.
While we can only surmise what the people of Jane Austen's time looked like when they moved, we have a sufficient store of written and visual evidence to make a fairly educated guess.
How to stand
Stand up straight with your head up. Do not slouch. Relax and stand comfortably and easily with your arms hanging naturally at your side and not locked like an Irish Step Dancer. You are not a soldier at attention.
Smile! This is fun!
How to move.
Follow the music and let the phrasing, style and beat tell you when and how to move. Do not count unless you can find no other way to manage a figure.
Try to be graceful. Usually this means keeping your movements small, smooth and not too rambunctious (bouncing, extraneous movement etc.). However, if you can do rambunctious and still be graceful and not disruptive to your fellow dancers, then follow your bliss. The works of Jane Austen frequently pass judgment on dancing skill of the characters. This skill is not about knowing fancy moves, it is about moving well, with a graceful but INDIVIDUAL style. If there is only one way to dance, then there are no good dancers, only compliant ones.
My advice would be to start out trying to make your movements as smooth and small as possible, and then go where the dance takes you. Be aware, of course, of your own physical limitations. These dances are pretty long, and if you sprint too much at the beginning, you might not make it to the end.
However, at all times be considerate of your fellow dancers and do not try to force others to comply with your interpretation. Constantly adjust your style to work smoothly with the styles and limitations of the many people with whom you interact in the course of a dance.
At every occasion when you take hands with or pass another person, make eye contact and hold that eye contact for as long as it makes sense to do so. Regency dancing is SOCIAL dancing, and that social aspect comes when you dance with the many different people in your set. If you do not make eye contact, you are not dancing WITH people, you are dancing alone.
Taking hands is an area where the Regency dancer and the modern English Country dancer differ significantly. The modern dancer is instructed to take hands in a "handshake", with a certain degree of firmness. Also, the hold tends to be fairly high -- usually around chest level.
The Regency style is a very light hand hold - the lady places her fingers in the gentleman's palm, and the gentleman closes with only the slightest pressure. There is no grip and the hold is not intended to take any strain.
The hands are at about waist/belly level -- lower than is the current custom.
"In giving the hand, the lady places her hand upon that of the gentleman, who receives it. These movements should be performed slowly, and corresponding to the music, observing always to turn the head and shoulders towards the same side to which the arm is carried; the head held properly back, and the looks reciprocally directed towards each other."(Strathy)
One of the things you constantly see in Regency era dance images, that modern dancers don't seem to take to, is that the lady nearly always seems to have her free hand (and often both hands if both are free) on her skirt, holding it, one assumes, in such a way as to ensure it does not impede her dancing.
Endeavor to have a sense of continuous flow in your transitions from one figure to another. When the figure does not demand that you stop and wait for something to happen, try to move seamlessly from one element to another rather than stop and the end of one figure and then restart with the next element. Find a way to blend the two into one seamless piece of continuous movement.
Legs and Feet
A certain amount of "turn out" of the feet is a nice bit of styling but should be instantly sacrificed it you find it impedes the grace and flow of your movement. In fact, all fine points of styling and precision are subordinate to achieving an over all agreeable effect. It is far better to be smooth, easy and comfortable in your steps than totally compliant with all elements of styling--and yet forced and uncomfortable.
Your knees should be limber and never locked, and in some steps, ready to bend.
Do not go through the dance with your shoulders squared. Pivot your body as you move through the dance. When you are about to take right hands, lead with your right hand and right shoulder and place your left shoulder behind. When you pass another dancer, turn your body to face him/her. There are no clear rules on this, but just think in terms of engaging your fellow dancers with your whole body, not just your eyes and hands.
Relax, enjoy yourself, and interact in a cheerful and friendly way with all your fellow dancers.