Oh, I think ballroom dancing is very Tasteful, and historical novels are all about what's Tasteful, so many thanks to Annie Burrows for bringing both to the Playground for today's Tasteful Tuesday!
Hi! I’m Annie Burrows, and I’ve never blogged on this site before. Just to introduce myself, I write Historicals for Harlequin, mainly set in the Regency era. And, for “Tasteful Tuesday”, I’m going to be talking about ballroom dancing, in particular, the waltz.
Fans of shows like “Strictly Come Dancing” or the US equivalent, “Dancing with the Stars” will not need to be told that the waltz is danced in 3 / 4 time with a strong accent on the first beat, and a basic pattern of step-step-close. The lady performing the waltz in these kind of shows usually wears something long and floaty that swirls as she twirls, and the man quite often adopts white tie and tails. It looks so tasteful, and romantic, doesn’t it, when you see couples such as Jade and Ian waltzing round the set of Strictly Come Dancing? And I have often set key scenes between my heroes and heroines during balls, describing the romance which sparks as they waltz in each others arms.
And yet, at the back of my mind, I always wondered how it could be possible to decide on a potential spouse during the course of one or two waltzes. And totally dismissed the old-fashioned notion that there was anything the least bit indecent about the waltz. Because, as I’m sure many of you know, at the time most of my stories are set, many people thought it was quite a shocking dance!
"We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last (reads an article from the Times of 1816)... it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now…we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion."
What? Voluptuous intertwining of limbs? A fatal contagion? Is that the same dance we’re talking about? Surely not!
Yet another group of people who strenuously opposed the introduction of waltzing to polite society were, strangely enough, dancing masters. They claimed that the basic steps were so simple, they could be learned in a relatively short time. Which might have posed a threat to their profession.
Simple! Hah! It might be simple for some people. Those who know their left foot from their right, for instance. But once I began to take ballroom dance lessons myself, I soon learned that doing the waltz is a vastly different experience from watching the waltz. For a start, you would not believe how much all that rising and falling makes your calf muscles ache. And then, once you master that basic step, there are reverse turns, spin turns, contra checks and hovers. Not to mention hesitations, and reverse spin turns.
But then, all of a sudden, something clicks, and…you’re dancing! And – wow! I could not believe how sexy it is, having my partner twirling me round, whilst holding me almost as closely as he would if he was just about to kiss me. It is, quite simply, one of the most erotic experiences you can have in a public place with all your clothes on! (The flip side is that there is no easy way to overcome the shock of being held, face on, by a man who is a virtual stranger to you. When he plants his feet between your legs, to push you into a reverse turn…yeeurgh!)
Ok, you get the picture. It is a very intimate experience, waltzing. Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who described ballroom dancing as a vertical expression of a horizontal desire? How right he was! Now that I’ve done some waltzing myself, I can completely understand why it is that so many of the celebrities involved in “Strictly” embark on affaires with their dancing teachers. And why a girl could decide, during the course of one waltz, if she could marry her partner. Or not.
So, if you want to inject some romance back into your relationship, I can thoroughly recommend going along to your nearest dance school, and booking a course of lessons.
There is absolutely no guarantee you are going to end up looking like an Alesha Dixon, or a Tom Chambers (recent winners of Strictly…) My partner and I certainly don’t have “The Look”. For one thing, we are getting on a bit. And one of us (I won’t specify which) might possibly have two left feet. As one teacher remarked to my husband, whilst learning the tango, (which is supposed to be one of the sexiest dances) “You look about as romantic as if you’re pushing a trolley round a supermarket!”
But we are not going to give up our lessons. Spending the evening in each other’s arms, giggling as we blunder into the furniture, yelping as we tread on each other’s toes, and occasionally, gloriously, experiencing the triumph of mastering a complicated step, is always an utter delight.
And we can’t wait to get home!
Visit Annie at www.annie-burrows.co.uk. Annie's November book, Devilish Lord, Mysterious Miss, is available now. Click below to read the first chapter!