Well, the wait is now over (and what a long, long, long wait it was): Strictly Come Dancing is back, a national institution encapsulating all that is meant by the word Entertainment in our modern age. Almost 200 years ago, however, it would have been regarded as a national disgrace, encapsulating all that would have been meant by the word Depravity.
It is hard to imagine that the waltz could create such a furore, that old-fashioned fuddy-duddy thing your grandparents did. But when you think about it, it really was quite shocking. In Jane Austen period dancing you spent an awful long time not being anywhere near your partner, and the touching of hands was about as far as it went. Now, the waltz – well, close proximity, the chance for real intimacy, actually talking face to face, lots of touching of who knows what sorts of body parts; talk about the invasion of personal space!
Anyhow it was something that the popular press turned into a media sensation (when they did at least last for more than a day), and as happens with most media sensations, what was then disgraceful soon became the boringly normal. What is written below came from The Anti-Jacobin Review, which could possibly be described as The Daily Mail of its times, and if you read further on, you will soon see why. It was copied into one of his journals by Sir George Crewe, the 8th Baronet, a good, hard-working, caring family man, with a clear social conscience about his responsibility to others and highly Christian principles.
“1816 On Waltzing
We are at all times concerned to see the pure taste of our countrymen corrupted by the importation of foreign follies in articles of dress, that they should descend to take for their models the present females of France, who have risen out of the very dregs of society is particularly mortifying. But the practice of Waltzing, which has been imported from France or from Germany, in both of which countries it has long been prevalent, affects something beyond appearance and excites something sharper than mortification. It is indeed a mode of dancing which cannot be practical without a violation of modesty, or at least a profanation of female delicacy, which is highly revolting to every well-regulated mind. The close contact in which the [?]persons of the parties must necessarily come, is such as a modest woman cannot allow. We aware of the acts, and the managements which have been employed to render this contact less striking and less indelicate. But why in the name of propriety, should a dance be encouraged, in which such acts & such managements are necessary for the avoidance of immodesty.”
Note to the Anti-Jacobin Review January 1816
It all beggars the question: what would have they made of CJ de Mooi’s suggestion for same sex dancing partners?
Harpur Crewe Cataloguing Archivist