IRISH 19'th Century Dance

"Terpsichore - Her Votaries and Fashions"
T. Leggett-Byrne

27 Adelaide Road, Dublin, Ireland


[p.7] IT would appear that not until the closing years of the Nineteenth Century have parents come to realise the fact Job2301a.gif (26370 bytes)that dancing and physical culture form an indispensable part of their children's education. Those holding opposite opinions are in a hopeless minority; even those who may not be altogether enamoured of the dancing art see the folly of letting foolish prejudice stand in the way of their children acquiring that physical culture which the highest medical authorities emphatically maintain is as much a part of a child's education as any other subject. Many a mother has cause to regret that she neglected to realise the truth of this; for instance, she may have a family of grown-up [p.8] children, none of whom have ever had a single lesson in either dancing, deportment, or physical culture. We will take it that they are all out of their teens, and "done growing." Job2402a.gif (19353 bytes)In her girls she finds round shoulders, turned in feet, an ungraceful carriage, and shy and awkward manners in society, which they share with their brothers - poor wallflowers, all of them, handicapped in the race of life through no fault of their own. It behoves all parents, then, to lose no time in sending their children to qualified teachers as soon as possible. It is no use sending a child for a year and then breaking off the course of tuition. Moreover, a regular attendance is absolutely necessary. Children's minds cannot possibly be expected to be retentive, if one month they are occupied at the dancing class, and the next find themselves amid different surroundings, and the lessons things of the past. Job2403b.gif (29942 bytes)It is said, with a certain amount of truth, that this is an age of over education. The increasing prevalence of ophthalmia among children is eloquent testimony of a distressing aspect [p.9] of the question. Therefore, the dancing and physical exercises become a necessity, It is a relief to the brain fag which must be doubly more acute in a child than in an adult, after a long period of mental application. It is no exaggeration to say that five is by no means too young for a child to commence. This will astonish many. We can bear their exclamation of surprise, "Nonsense, no child so young could possibly learn." But here they make a great mistake; children at that age, although, as a rule, not observant, soon develop that faculty, and the fascination of the dancing lesson gives them the desire to learn. The present day teacher, therefore, in order to make his class a success, has to make it attractive. The old-fashioned method of keeping pupils at steps for season after season is quite out of date, and unsuited for the rising generation; they look upon the class as a bore, and the parents would declare their children were learning nothing. job2501a.gif (27230 bytes)Moreover, if children dread their dancing lesson, what possible good can it do them; they will certainly not do their teacher any credit in the end. The lesson should be made so enjoyable that the pupils would look forward to it with delight. At the same time, the teacher must use discretion, and assert his authority when necessary to keep the children in order. We note with regret that the old prejudice against -dancing still holds its blighting sway in some boys' schools. Some masters hold ideas not one whit in advance of the Puritans, who pulled down the Maypoles in England; they look upon dancing or deportment as unworthy, if not dangerous, to engage the attentions of their pupils. Those unlucky [p.10] youngsters whose superior appearance of refinement proclaims the fact that their parents have sent them to a dancing class, generally come in for sneering remarks on their effeminacy, invariably made in the presence of the other less fortunate boys. This is written from personal experience, and is a grievance which calls for immediate remedy. It all rests in the hands of the parents. As it is, there are signs of improvement in this direction; the position of such bigots in trying to stem the march of civilisation is akin to that of Mrs. Partington with her Mop, trying to stem the inroad of the Atlantic Ocean. Many old prejudices are dying with the century, some hard, but that against dancing is having a speedy dissolution. In a well [p.11] ventilated room, and under a qualified teacher, dancing is one of the most graceful of exercises, and one of the most fruitful sources of health. The actual effort to dance gracefully awakens a corresponding desire to be gracious in manner, impressing upon the young mind the true value and beauty of politeness and graciousness of manner not to be forgotten in after life.

Job2601a.gif (38698 bytes)

'Terpsichore - Her Votaries and Fashions' by T. Leggett-Byrne, Dublin, 1898:

"Contents" # "Preface" # "Etiquette of Presentation at Dublin Castle
"On Fancy Dress Balls"

Home # Top

Email: Chris Brady
No. of visitors since 20-10-99: [ 209 ]
Site last modified: April 09, 2010
Chris Brady

Top # Home